Friday, June 01, 2018

Two Deaths From Landslide in Watauga County

Heavenly Mtn development, May 30, 2018
Photo Boone Police Dept.
Thing is, Watauga County was mapped for landslide hazards in 2007, and the area highlighted at that time as most landslide prone was in the Stony Fork precinct which takes in the Heavenly Mountain development. That area experienced devastating landslides in 1940 -- literally, hundreds of them -- and geologic science forecasts that a slope which experienced "debris flow" in the past will experience it again.

The Watauga County landslide hazard maps were presented to the Watauga County Planning Board in January of 2008. The mapping was prompted by the 2004 Hurricane Ivan event which killed five people in Macon County by landslide and devastated the White Laurel development in Boone's ETJ. Because of that, the state legislature said that all 19 mountain counties along the Blue Ridge escarpment needed to know the hazards, so it funded the research. Watauga County was the second county surveyed, and it was very nearly the last. As soon as the Republicans took control in 2011, they cut the funding.

Not that knowing the hazards necessarily saves lives. There's knowing, and then there's really knowing, and the land development community in vacationland never really wanted that information made public. It might have a negative impact on land values.

Those hazard maps are available, incidentally, via the Watauga County Planning and Inspections website.

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