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Nation lacks system to track landslide hazards

Snohomish County Technical Rescue Team members Monday stood on a new service road above the area if the mudslide.
Snohomish County Technical Rescue Team members Monday stood on a new service road above the area if the mudslide.Associated Press/Pool

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SEATTLE — Unlike the warning systems and elaborate maps that help residents and officials prepare for natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes, there is no national system to monitor slide activity and no effort underway to produce detailed nationwide landslide hazard maps.

The US Geological Survey doesn’t track or inventory slide areas on a national scale, despite an ambitious plan to do so more than a decade ago when Congress directed it to come up with a national strategy to reduce landslide losses.

That has left states and communities to put together a patchwork of maps showing landslide hazards. In some cases, they are discovering that more buildings than previously thought are sitting on unstable ground. Even then, that information may not make its way to property owners.

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