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TN experts explain the difference between a mudslide and a landslide

TDOT says Tennessee's soil conditions and terrain make slides more common.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Transportation said nine different slides have impacted highways in parts of East Tennessee since Feb. 4. 

Feb. 21, 2019: One man killed, another hospitalized after mudslide swept their cars 200 feet down an embankment

Feb. 21, 2019: Hwy. 321 down to one lane near Townsend due to continuous slides

University of Tennessee Geologist Bob Hatcher said the state provides a lot of conditions that make this possible.

"Well there's a lot of slopes and mountains and weather plays a huge part in that too," he said. 

He said it can be easy for those who don't know a lot about geology to get certain terms confused. 

"A mudslide works like a liquid and it requires water," he said.

He said these can have a lot of force and move a lot of weight around.

"This can be anything from small particles to boulders," Hatcher said.

But landslides are a little different and they can vary.

"It really depends on the conditions of the area and if there are any triggers," he said.

Hatcher said a trigger can be anything from an earthquake to weather. According to TDOT, long periods of wet weather and freezing specifically affects Tennessee.

TDOT Chief Engineer Will Reid said this is something it will continue to monitor. 

"The best that we can do is keep an eye on all high hazardous sites, and we do that on a continuous basis," he said.

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