Marin County Mudslides

By Tess Lochman

The unabating rains this winter caused water to rapidly collect in the hillsides of Marin County, resulting in a surge of hazardous mudslides, according to California Highway Patrol (CHP) Marin. A majority of the damage from the mudslides have been on roads, which has led to long closures, increasing traffic and inconvenience for many drivers.

“[The mudslides] really mess up the bus schedule to and from Bolinas and Stinson sometimes. Once in awhile the bus just doesn’t come because of a blocked road or something so u have to get a ride or stay home which is really inconvenient and affects all of our schoolwork and stuff,” said Bolinas resident and Tam sophomore Ella Miller-Hodge.

A few of of the roads most affected by the slides are Paradise drive, portions of the US 101 northbound, Highway 1 (between Bolinas and Stinson), and Alexander Avenue (connecting Sausalito to Highway 101).

“The mudslides in Sausalito, specifically Alexander avenue, made it really hard for my parents to pick me up and get around because it caused so much traffic all around Sausalito,” said Makayla Lee, Sausalito resident and Redwood sophomore.

Mudslides (AKA mudflows or debris flows) are a hazardous type of rapidly moving landslide that usually flow in a channel. The quick moving debris and water can lead to major disturbance, damaged electrical water, gas, and sewage lines, as well as obstructed roadways and railways. Fortunately, the Marin County Road Department and PG&E have prevented most damage that the mudslides could potentially cause by cutting down large, weak trees and powerlines near potential mudslide zones.

“The dangers are now right here; you don’t have to look any farther than your backyard,” said Ursula Hanks, the coordinator for the Marin County Office of Emergency Services, in an interview with the Marin IJ. “The mudslides are the direct cause of too much water, and that’s what we have now.”

Since many homes in Marin are built on steep hills, there is a higher risk of mudslides occurring in the area and possibly damaging homes. Although the heavy rain has slowed down in the past couple weeks, it is predicted to rain off and on in the next few weeks, which could result in more mudslides.

Many families have faced hardship with the recent slides. In early February, a house in San Rafael was pushed off of it’s foundation and completely destroyed due to a major mudslide. Around the same time, another home in the same area was split in two by a boulder that was pushed down by rain and mud.

In Fairfax, a mother and son were forced to flee their home as a major mudslide came down above them. Fortunately, nobody was injured in any of these cases. Homeowners policies usually don’t cover flooding and mudslides. Many homeowners don’t think that they will need special coverage for flooding if their home is built on a hill. But when the mudslides strike most people end up paying out of pocket for something that was out of their control.

Mudslides can create serious upheaval for many families and individuals. They can cause damage that is not always controllable and create a large amount of inconvenience, especially for commuters getting to school or work. The real dangers of mudslides is not widely recognized or prepared for, but prevention could save a lot of hassle, money and maybe even a life.