The deadly landslide that killed 10 people and destroyed approximately 30 homes in La Conchita, California last January is but a tiny part of a much larger slide, called the Rincon Mountain slide, discovered by Larry D. Gurrola, geologist and graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The slide started many thousands of years ago and will continue generating slides in the future, reported Gurrola at the national meeting of the Geological Society of America today in Salt Lake City.
Prehistoric slides present at Rincon Mountain cover an area of about 1,300 acres with a minimum volume of about 600 million cubic yards, said Edward A. Keller, professor of earth science at UC Santa Barbara. Keller analyzed the landslide complex with Gurrola and Tim Tierney, UCSB research scientist. Geological consultant Ted Powers also contributed. The La Conchita landslides that occurred in 1995 and 2005 form only a small percent of a much larger landslide complex, according to the geologists. These recent landslides spilled over U.S. Highway 101 in the Ventura County community that is located 25 miles south of Santa Barbara.
"The slope that failed in 1995 and 2005 is a holocene paleosea cliff and is near the seaward edge of an ancient landslide that has produced prehistoric and historic slides, slumps, debris and mud flows," said Gurrola. "The question is not if but when the next landslide will impact the community of La Conchita. A combination of factors makes future landslides inevitable. These are: active faulting and folding; rapid tectonic uplift; very weak rocks; steep topography; and, the presence of springs."
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