In 2004 Hurricane Ivan dumped tons of water on Watauga County, causing the soil under the White Laurel subdivision to give way with catastrophic results.
As a result of that event and other devastating landslides in western North Carolina -- four people died in a slide on Peeks Creek in Macon County -- the General Assembly appropriated money to map landslide hazards in the western counties. The mapping of Watauga County was completed in 2008. Hardly anyone knows those maps exist, and even fewer prospective homeowners and home builders know how to access and read them before investing in a piece of property.
We watch the continuing development on steep slopes in Watauga and wait for the next hurricane to follow a period of drought, which is often the one-two punch that produces disaster.
Red dots represent the 5,237 recorded “landslide points” where these disasters have occurred since the early 1900s. (Source: DEQ)