On October 3, 2007, there was a landslide on Mount Soledad, in a very expensive neighborhood in San Diego. The area had been evacuated literally the day before and the people had not yet been let back in. I toured the affected area with a group of city geologists about four weeks after the slide and the residents had still not been allowed to return. People's doors and garages were still open, you could see furniture strewn about inside, there were hungry dogs barking at us, still trapped in people's backyards. Someone must have been feeding them, but I don't know who that might have been. Anyway, here are the pictures.
This is approaching the top of the slide, from the south. This used to be a very wide two-lane road. This road was just reopened yesterday (10/16/08).
Buncha damn looky-loos, posing as geologists! Okay, only one - me.
A close-up of the devastation. Notice the dryness of the soil. This was a matter of deep concern to the city geologists. This area is well-known to be unstable, but to have a slide of this magnitude with no rain, no leaking water main, no nothing, well, it's pretty scary for the people whose job it is to protect people. To their credit, though, the city geologists had it pegged. They ordered an evacuation the day before the slide. They had been up there doing some unrelated testing and made the call and got it right. I half-suspect that the reason the city geologists let the community geologists do this tour was to show off having got one right.
From the other edge of the top of the slide, looking back. Asphalt does not handle lateral stresses well. The whole area looked like Godzilla had smashed a foot down to crumple the hillside. It was a little surreal when I saw these pictures (taken by the geologist who tipped me off to the tour), because you see pictures of this and that disaster on the front page of the paper from time to time. It's hard to describe the difference of having been there to see the scale firsthand. It seems to me that these pictures probably look pretty run of the mill, as far as disaster photos go, but having been there, these pictures have the opposite effect on me. When I saw them, it really sunk in just how massive the whole thing was.
You can see the southernmost house affected by the slide. Obviously, it used to be side by side with the house next door. We were under strict orders NOT to step foot on private property, not even to steal the motorcycle in the garage next door. In fact, looting was entirely prohibited, if you can believe that. What a bunch of squares!
This is the toe of the slide. This is where the land from the landslide landed. Again, under strict instructions not to step foot on private property, but as you can see here, that wasn't always easy to do. Yes, that is a roof we are standing next to. At the base of the hill, there had been a narrow access road, then a line of houses. The land from the slide got under the road and pushed it onto the roofs of the houses. We saw a fire hydrant that surveyors determined had moved twenty feet vertically. If the public road is on top of the roof of a private residence, is walking on the road walking on public property or private property? This is also where the dog was. I think someone had been chucking meat over the house to the dog for the last four weeks.
A palm tree. Thrown through a wall.