Heavy rain brings increased landslide risk

After a weekend with several inches of rain that caused a landslide in Bell County, Kentucky, an expert warn of an increased risk as more rain is forecast.

With the ground already saturated and more rain in the forecast, experts warn that many areas of East Tennessee are at an increased risk of landslides.

"Water breaks down solid things and is mixes with it and makes it more fluid and makes it capable of flowing and moving. That includes rock, land soil, and then everything on it - trees, houses - anything," Dr. Henri Grissino-Mayer said.

Loading ...

Grissino-Mayer teaches natural hazards at the University of Tennessee and says while any steep area is prone to landslides when there is enough water, the areas burned in the November 2016 wildfires are at significant risk.

"A well known fact in the Western Unites States is you always prepare for landslides, sediment increase, erosion potential, movement of slopes. You always prepare for that after major wildfires," Grissino-Mayer said. "We just had not one, but several major wildfires that greatly changed the landscape and it removed stabilizing vegetation, it removed grasses and shrubs, it changed the matrix of the soil itself."

After the fires the National Park Service sprayed hydroseed on high risk slopes near roads. Grissino-Mayer said that temporarily helped, but the seed was not planted everywhere, and other vegetation has not had time to mature.

"Without that the slops are going to become unstable," Grissino-Mayer said.

Recent landslides have only caused hassles by closing roads. Grissino-Mayer says its important for people in high risk areas to be prepared for a more serious event.

"There have been no catastrophic landslides in recent memory, but the evidence of the scars are on the landscape in the Smoky Mountains. They've occurred in the past," Grissino-Mayer said. "There haven't been any in recent times, but that doesn't mean that they won't happen again. They will happen again."