EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

April 13, 2014

LESSONS LEARNED

UNH professor gleans safety tip from deadly landslide

DURHAM, N.H. (AP) — A University of New Hampshire professor of civil engineering is part of a team of experts that will document the environmental effects of the fatal landslide in Washington state last month.

Jean Benoit and his colleagues on the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance Association will study the impact of the landslide and debris flow.

He says a better understanding of what led up to the landslide will help communities enhance public safety.

The March 22 landslide carried away homes and left 35 confirmed dead in its wake.

Benoit says observation of actual events is invaluable because it is difficult under lab conditions to study thousands of years of sediment buildup.

“We need to better understand the mechanisms associated with debris flow,” Benoit said. “They are potentially so devastating and so unexpected.”

The extreme events association is funded by the National Science Foundation.

The landslide occurred on a steep slope above the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, alongside the rural community of Oso. It traveled about half a mile, destroying about 50 homes and burying a milelong stretch of state highway 530.

Teams from the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance Association also are investigating the floods last month in Christchurch, New Zealand.

GEER also has a team working on the earthquakes in Cephalonia in Greece in January and February.

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