14 Journal o Student Research in Environmental Science at Appalachian
Landslide hazards in Watauga County,North Carolina
Dave ChristieEnvironmental Sciences Program, Appalachian State University, Boone, NCchristiedn@appstate.edu
The purpose o this research is to analyze the terrain o Watauga County, North Caro-lina and develop models predicting slope instability and landslide probability. Devel-opment in Boone, NC was also analyzed to determine i any existing buildings andinrastructure were at risk. Slope and soil type, as well as previous landslide occurrencewere all analyzed and reclassied using Geographic Inormation System (GIS) sotwareto produce predictive models o slope instability and, consequently, landslide hazards.In Watauga County the area o highest risk was the northwestern region, includingthe towns o Vilas and Sugar Grove, curving towards the center (near Boone), with anadditional high-risk area in the southeast around the town o Deep Gap. There werea ew isolated areas in Boone (southwestern and central, as well as Howard’s Knob tothe north) that posed some landslide risk to a ew buildings and roads, but as a wholethe town was not at risk.
There are many types o slope ailures, all o whichcan be hazardous. Landslides occur throughoutthe United States, primarily in mountainous, hillyregions and along the Pacic coast . Land-slides cause over $1 billion in damages and areresponsible or between 25 and 50 deaths in thenation annually [1, 2]. Landslides can damagebuildings, property, utilities, roads and bridges. Landslides can be triggered in several ways,including heavy rains, earthquakes, blasting, anddevelopment on steep slopes [3, 4]. Landsliderisk models and maps are essential to inormgovernments, planning committees, developers,and the general public about the potential haz-ards o slope movement and to provide ways tomitigate the impact o such disasters, especiallyi the models can predict which areas are mostlikely to experience slope instability.In Watauga County North Carolina, moredevelopment is occurring on unstable slopes,which may increase the risk o landslides .Since Watauga County is mountainous and re-ceives a signicant amount o rainall, approxi-mately 150 cm annually, the risk o landslidesand slope instabilities may be high, especiallyin areas with steep slopes and areas undergoingdevelopment . For Watauga County, the over-whelming cause o landslides historically hasbeen intense rainall. The Southeast Hurricane o 1940 was devastating to the East Coast, aectingGeorgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia,and parts o Tennessee . Watauga County re-ceived between 25.4 and 38.1 cm o rain in justa ew days, triggering an overwhelming majorityo the landslides on record. The dominant type o landslide during the1940 hurricane was the debris fow. A debrisfow is typically a rapid mass movement o mate-rial, which includes loose soil, rock, and organicmatter [1, 3]. This type o landslide combineswith water to orm a slurry, which can range inconsistency rom thin and watery to rather thick . Debris fows tend to occur on steep slopesand can reach speeds up to 35 mph [1, 3]. SinceWatauga County is in a mountainous region, itis not surprising that so many o the landslideshave been debris fows due to the many steepslopes in the area. The second most commonorm o landslide in Watauga County has beenthe debris blowout which is not surprising be-cause this area tends to receive high velocitywinds on a airly regular basis.In this study, historical landslide data inWatauga County is combined with current slopeand soil type data to assist in the prediction o landslide hazards in Watauga County and the Town o Boone, North Carolina.