The wet winter makes for a dangerous landslide season, says Oregon Department of Geology; many hillsides are unstable after a string of storms.
EUGENE, Ore. — A wet winter in Oregon has led to numerous landslides, and officials warn of continuing dangers even as the weather shifts in coming months. Oregon is in the midst of a “pretty active landslide season” after a relatively dry winter last year, said Ali Ryan Hansen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.
Repeat storms have destabilized many hillsides and former landslide sites, she added.
A woman was killed in December when a slide hit her home north of Florence on the Oregon coast. The same storm led to another landslide near Newport that damaged four homes and a sinkhole that swallowed a car.
Slides have closed state highways on the Oregon coast and in the Coast Range.
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A slide closed Highway 36 west of Triangle Lake for eight days earlier this month and another slide shut down Highway 42 in rural southwest Oregon for 10 days in December.
Smaller landslides closed Highway 101 south of Heceta Head on the Oregon coast for a day in late February.
State officials warn motorists and others to be cautious of slides in coming months.
“With the wet and wild weather, we’ve had a lot of slides, big and small,” said Angela Beers Seydel, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Transportation.
“People need to be aware of their surroundings and know that when you’re driving around corners, there’s always the possibility that something may have come down off of that hill. Be aware, be cautious and be ready,” Seydel added.
A recent state study found as much as a third of Oregon’s land mass is deemed high risk for landslides, including swaths of land in the Coast and Cascade mountain ranges and in southwest Oregon.
Besides heavy rainfall, landslides can be caused by rapid thawing of frost or snowmelt. That means there will be a greater risk at higher elevations in the near future even if rains let up.