The 7 Largest Landslides in California’s History

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Written by Emmanuel Kingsley

Published: May 30, 2022

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The state of California has, for a long while, been a disaster-prone state. Numerous devastating disasters have been recorded within the state. For instance, some catastrophic and jaw-breaking large landslides are forever entrenched in the history of the Bearflag state. One of such is the La Conchita Mudslide of 2005 that led to the death of ten people. But that is not the only large landslide California ever experienced. Here are 7 of the largest landslides in California’s history.

7 of the Largest Landslides in California’s History

The 2017 Big Sur Landslide

The 2017 Big Sur Landslide caused the blockage of the Pacific Coast Highway.

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California experienced one of the most significant recorded landslides within the region in February 2017 in Big Sur. According to scientists who studied the event, the slide was caused by torrential rainfalls after a few years of drought, which weakened the earth’s structure. As a result of the slide which caused the blockage of the Pacific Coast Highway, the road was closed for reconstruction, which cost about $54 million and took more than a year.

The 2005 La Conchita Landslide

The 2005 La Conchita Landslide took about ten lives.

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It has long been known that the La Conchita area is prone to landslides. A massive landslide occurred within the region just about a decade before the catastrophic 2005 landslide. Reports show that the 2005 La Conchita landslide destroyed parts of the town below the Rincon mountain. The large chunks of the earth which slid down the mountain took about ten lives and destroyed the homes of the people living in the town. 

A 15-day period of heavy rainfall in Southern California preceded the event of the slide, causing the landslide. Scientists who studied the event within the region say that the fall is one that has gone on for thousands of years. It is somewhat clear that it will continue in this nature, but the time another slide will occur in La Conchita cannot be predicted. 

The 1982 Landslide in San Francisco Bay Area

The 1982 Landslide in San Francisco Bay Area resulted in damages exceeding $66 million.

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Between January 3rd and 5th, 1982, Central California experienced a catastrophic rainstorm that dropped almost half of the area’s mean precipitation within 32 hours. This rainstorm triggered landslides and floods across ten San Francisco Bay Area counties. In addition, there were over 18,000 storm-induced slides causing debris flows through hillslopes and drainages.

The catastrophic effect of this landslide includes the destruction of at least 100 homes, the death of 14 residents, and the carrying of another resident into the creek. Even after the rainfall, a landslide from the mountainside buried ten people in their homes. Furthermore, the destructive event caused thousands of people to vacate their homes, destroyed public water systems, and disrupted power and telephone services. 

The estimate of the landslide damage exceeded $66 million, including damage to homes, businesses, communication lines, roads, and bridges. 

The 1996 Yosemite Valley Landslide

The 1996 Yosemite Valley Landslide

One of the biggest disasters to ever occur in California is the 1996 Yosemite Valley Landslide.

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The quite devastating event of the Yosemite Valley Landslide occurred near the Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley. This is one of the biggest disasters to occur within the region. The landslide claimed a camper’s life within the region and caused destruction to about a thousand trees, the Happy Isles nature center, and a nearby bridge. 

More than 160,000 tons of rocks and earth slid down at 160 mph. Following the slide were an earthquake and a subsequent sonic boom, after which a giant dust mushroom cloud was formed, which darkened the sky around the Happy Isles area.

The Ferguson Landslide

The Ferguson Landslide

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California’s Ferguson slide occurred in April 2006 when rocks and vast patches of earth fell from the Ferguson edge. The rocks and vast patches of earth that slid off blocked the California state route 140, which led the government to construct other temporary bridges leading to the Yosemite National park. 

The active slide is actually a result of erosion emanating from the river valley. Luckily, the slide is not recorded to have casualties within the area. The significant effect of the slide is the cost of constructing and extending the temporary bridges from attempting to clear up the debris blocking the highway.

Verdugo Hills Cemetery Landslide

The Verdugo Hills Cemetery Landslide is one of California’s most troubling disasters.

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The peace pioneer cemetery in Tujunga, California, experienced days of intense rainfall in 1978, which subsequently led to the massive slide from the San Gabriel Mountain. This ghastly event caused many corpses to be thrown throughout the area. Bodies were found around the town. Thomas Noguchi even stated that a body was found jammed between the entrances of a supermarket building.

As a result, the government spent a lot of resources attempting to fix the damage and rebury the bodies found within the region of the slide. Research shows that the rain poured out into spaces made within the earth and caused the already weakened slope to slide down. Obviously, this is one of California’s most troubling disasters.

1906 San Francisco Landslides

The 1906 San Francisco Landslides damaged buildings, roads, and railroads.

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Central California, especially the Monterey Bay and San Francisco area, experienced over 10,000 landslides in 1906. An earthquake triggered these landslides, killing at least 11 people. In addition, the landslides damaged buildings, roads, and railroads. 

The estimated damage the landslides caused exceeded $30 million, and the blockage of the two major highways in the city resulted in further economic losses.


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