Yellowstone Landslides - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Yellowstone Landslides

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CODY, WYOMING -

As the death toll keeps growing from the Washington state landslide, people who live in the Yellowstone region need to be aware of landslide dangers. There are unstable mountainsides, high ground moisture, and earthquake activity. 16 people barely escaped with their lives after a landslide inside Yellowstone Park buried their cars ten years ago.

It was midsummer, 2004, when a landslide on Yellowstone's Sylvan Pass buried three cars. They were nearly pushed off the road, toward a deadly drop off hundreds of feet down. All 16 people survived.

One of the survivors said, "And it was flowing like a river beside of us. My granddaughter started getting a little hysterical and I told her there was nothing I could do. We were at the mercy of nature."

The next year, a slide buried and closed the Beartooth Highway near Yellowstone. In the years that followed, several slides closed the roads in and around the park.

Bureau of Land Management Biologist, Gretchen Hurley, explained that the rock there is weakened. "But in the Park you also have the issue of hydrothermal alteration of the rock, geological," said Hurley.

Hurley said Yellowstone, and the region around it, has another instability -- earthquakes.

She explained, "Wyoming, especially the west half of Wyoming, is very seismic."

Landslides in the Rockies are not uncommon. Rock slides are very common, and we're coming into the worst season of the year for both events.

Hurley said, "The spring of the year is still the time when we still get moisture from above. We already have kind of a saturated ground from all of the snow, Penny. And, then you get the frost that's melting out of the ground now in spring."

Hurley said add gravity and volcanic soils, and you have the perfect recipe for falling rocks and landslides. One of the worst areas is in the Shoshone Canyon, just west of Cody.

She pointed out the red zones indicating past landslides on a map, "And here's your Shoshone canyon North Fork of the Shoshone River. These red areas again are known landslides."

Hurley said landslides can happen very quickly, without warning.

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