New report released on deadly Mesa County landslide

From the air, it looked like three miles of mud -- the longest landslide ever recorded in Colorado. Geologists who investigated the May 2014 slide in Mesa County said all of that was not mud, but rock, which had been pulverized as it made its way down at

KUSA- From the air, it looked like three miles of mud -- the longest landslide ever recorded in Colorado. Geologists who investigated the May 2014 slide in Mesa County said all of that was not mud, but rock, which had been pulverized as it made its way down at speeds upwards of 80 miles per hour.

It's just one of the finding detailed in a new report from the Colorado Geological Survey.

"If anybody was at the bottom of that valley, there was no way they would have made it up the side of the hill, in time," said report-co-author Matt Morgan of the Colorado Geological Survey.

The landslide killed three men: Wes Hawkins, Clancy Nichols and Danny Nichols. The CGS dedicated their new report about what happened to the men who died. One of the findings that surprised investigators: it was a dry landslide.

"This is not something you see every day," Morgan said.

One of the other co-authors of the report, Jonathan White, agreed.

"For the most part, it had flowed in a relatively dry state," said White, who is also with the CGS. "That was the first thing I told everybody—'I can't believe how dry this is."

The report doesn't point to an exact trigger as to what happened. There was rain in the two days before the slide, but geologists believe the slide might have happened eventually anyway. It was located in the exact spot of a previous landslide, which took place thousands of years ago.

"It was probably more ripe for failure like this than other areas," White said.

The Colorado Geological Survey is now working on mapping all the areas in the state, where a landslide might be possible.

"A lot of mountain communities can be in potentially the same situation, especially ones located within a valley like that," White said.

Using lasers, they can now create survey maps, in ways they couldn't in the past.

"It can actually peer through vegetation, so we can see things that we couldn't see from traditional aerial photography," Morgan said.

The idea is to give people a way of knowing their landslide risk and perhaps prevent another tragedy, like the one in Mesa County. State geologists have already mapped where previous landslides have occurred in Colorado. You can find the interactive map here.

Can't see the report? Click here: http://bit.ly/1EYWJJ7

(© 2015 KUSA)


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