The reports just 17 days ago about the devastating mudslide and loss to date of 30 lives in the USA at the village of Oso in Washington State made international headlines. Locally this remains a major story, with some asking why sensors were not, as a precaution, put in place in advance to monitor water levels on this slide prone slope as is done in Switzerland. (Seattle Times 7 April 2014). Others point out that there has been a history of mudslides in the vicinity and warnings were given of the dangers. Click on the bar below for a timeline of five satellite pictures showing landslides there since 2002.
It has reminded us it was just 21 months ago that Thornthwaite’s Seldom Seen hamlet and The Larches were inundated with a flow of water, mud and debris from the Whinlatter forest after heavy rainfall over a 24 hour period.
These phenomena are not of course new. They’ve happened before and all over the world. And in the scale of things the problems here in Cumbria were not that serious. But they provide evidence – like the reports that last year was the wettest in Britain since records were kept – that we are experiencing here as well as elsewhere the effects of climate change.
It’s important to emphasise however that these adverse effects can be mitigated – a point that was stressed last week by Dr Chris Field, Chair of the IPCC when discussing the implications of their new report
The problems require practical action and ‘ambitious investment’; and this can actually save money. What’s now being spent at Oso to make it safe to continue the search and rescue effort is costing much more than would have been needed for the advance installation of water saturation monitors.
Here in Thornthwaite we have had useful meetings with the Forestry Commission (FC) and others and it’s good to report that work has been done to address some of the problems in the area, which were identified with the FC representatives in the first weeks after the flooding.
As the photo (top) shows, a substantial hard wood planting programme to stabilise the ground has been carried out in the area, close to Comb Beck where a substantial landslide had blocked the public footpath up the beck.
In addition the FC has recognised our criticisms of the initial culverting of the forestry road above The Larches. The single pipe being laid under the road to drain water was simply blocking up with small stones brought down with the water.
Instead two large five feet deep brick chambers with square metal grills have now been built with 15 feet long ‘feeder’ pipes to collect the water run-off and with two feet wide diameter pipes under the road to distribute the water onto the SE slopes and down to Comb Beck. See photo, with arrow indicating grill.
So far this has done the trick and in heavy rain!