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Landslides and Mudslides — a deeper analysis

April 14, 2014

Prof. Rob Olshansky wrote in to provide some context for landslides and mudslides. He has been studying them for years and has published several papers on the topic. In reviewing the issues over the years he said:

*** there are two main points to all of this. First, landslide insurance does not exist (except for the “mudslide” provision in NFIP, a curiosity which is explained in my longer law review paper). This means that when a landslide occurs, everyone sues everyone (of course, it’s worse if deaths are involved). For local governments, it ends up being distracting and expensive, whether or not they are at fault. Hence, my message to local governments is: do everything you can to avoid damaging landslides in your jurisdiction. The Oso landslide would be my illustration of what I mean by this.

Second, if a landslide affects an existing subdivision, there are very few options. It’s hard to prevent others from building on lots in the subdivision. And it’s hard to fix the slide: everyone thinks that someone else should pay. My paper on landslide hazard mitigation looks at several possible financing structures (with estimates of dollar amounts at the time), including some ways to lure the insurers back into the game.  But landslides are too infrequent to attract sustained policy attention or the sustained attention of insurers, so nothing changes.

A special thanks to Rob Olshansky, who is Head of the Dept. of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Note: He send the Diva copies of 3 of his published papers. To avoid copyright violations, I have not uploaded them to this site. But I can share them with a selected no. of interested persons, if the intended use is for educational purposes. Contact me directly if you want to see them.


Another Note:  For those who want some basic information about landslides, as well as links to additional resources, check out the US Geological Survey and its Landslides 101 page.


Cimate Action Needed – ASAP

April 14, 2014

U.N. Climate Panel Warns Speedier Action Is Needed to Avert Disaster.  Intro begins:

The countries of the world have dragged their feet so long on global warming that the situation is now critical, experts appointed by the United Nations reported Sunday, and only an intensive worldwide push over the next 15 years can stave off potentially disastrous climatic changes later in the century.

Another version of the same report and warning, from the Wall St. Journal.

“Heartbleed” – the new technology threat

April 13, 2014

I just found a new item to add to my What Keeps Me Up at Night list.  It is this account in the Wall St. Journal of the new technology bug and the handful of people (literally) who are responsible for Internet security. See: Heartbleed Bug’s ‘Voluntary’ Origins; Internet Security Relies on a Small Team of Coders, Most of Them Volunteers; Flaw Was a Fluke. From the intro:

The encryption flaw that punctured the heart of the Internet this week underscores a weakness in Internet security: A good chunk of it is managed by four European coders and a former military consultant in Maryland.

On the practical side, here is some advice for actions that individuals can take to minimize or avoid the consequences of Heartbleed.  From the HuffPost: The Heartbleed Bug Goes Even Deeper Than We Realized — Here’s What You Should Do

Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard in the works

April 11, 2014

From Emergency Management magazine, some details about a new Disaster Assessment and Assistance Dashboard, under development by a contractor for FEMA, is coming. It is to be piloted in San Francisco and the date of its public release is not given.

I keep hearing accounts of dashboards under development. If any readers know of any systems that are operational, I would like to hear about them.


The True Costs of Relief and Recovery – Hurricane Sandy

April 10, 2014

For those of you interesting in the long-term recovery from Hurricane Sandy, here are two sites that may be of interest:

  • The official federal site re expenditures re H. Sandy can be found here.

Flood Insurance – a review

April 9, 2014

Recently my posts have featured a retrospective on several topics, earthquake science, the condition of our infrastructure, and the like.  Here is a short, interesting history of flood insurance and moral hazards.  From The Hill, this article titled Natural floods, unnatural disasters

The source I often go to for flood and flood insurance analyses is the Association of State Flood Plain Managers.

Earthquake Science – since 1964

April 9, 2014

See this NYT feature on the Alaska Earthquake and the Chile earthquakes. Those two places have the distinction of the largest magnitude earthquakes ever to affect the U.S. and the world.

See also the blog posting by Eric Holdeman who discusses the Cascadia Fault in Washington state.




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