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If the land is slowly moving downslope, the trees will lean, but keep trying to grow straight towards the sun.

This process results in their bent growth pattern and indicates the trees are slowly sliding down the hill on top of the landslide. This should be a warning that the land may move substantially with the next large rainstorm. Above -- Tree showing curved growth. The curved growth pattern yellow line indicates the tree is growing on top of a slowly moving landslide. Above -- A landslide can carry a lot of debris. This debris flow took the bark off the tree 10 feet above the ground indicating the flow as about 10 feet deep at that point.

It also carried the large boulder downhill, bringing it to rest next to the tree. A landslide can leave a trail of destruction along its path and a pile of debris at the end of its journey. Hurricanes in the Mountains -- Hurricanes not only affect the coast, they can move inland and drop tremendous amounts of rain. A single hurricane can substantially affect a large area. If consecutive storms hit an area within a short period of time, the results can be devastating. Such an occurrence happened when the remnants of Hurricanes Frances and Ivan passed through the North Carolina mountains within a two-week time span in September Tons of water, mud, rocks, trees and other debris traveled for more than two miles.

The debris flow was 30 feet deep and feet wide at some points and traveled downhill as fast as 33 miles per hour. North Carolina Geological Survey staff geologist, lower-left corner of image for scale. The large amount of rain falling on steep, unmodified slopes in such a short period of time triggered the more than two-mile-long debris flow. Ivan dropped between 4 to 6 inches of rain, with higher elevations receiving 10 or more inches of precipitation. This rainfall was in addition to the remnants of Hurricane Frances that dropped 6 to 10 inches of rain, with many areas receiving greater than 10 inches.

This landslide was most likely because of steep slopes, shallow soil and large amounts of rain. Mountain counties were hard hit by these back-to-back events with destruction to property and transportation routes throughout the region. Above -- The Peeks Creek debris flow destroyed or damaged 15 homes, and five fatalities, including an unborn child, were reported. The debris flow pushed this two-story home 30 feet off its foundation.


The piles of debris to the right of the house are the remnants of an adjacent house that was destroyed. Above -- In a subdivision in Watauga County, one home was destroyed and eight others condemned for occupancy by landslides related to Hurricane Frances in Photo courtesy of the Asheville Citizen-Times online edition. Varnes, D. Contact Information For additional information about landslide hazards in North Carolina, please contact Mr. Highway 70, Swannanoa, North Carolina Wooten ncdenr. Skip to main content.

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Mass Wasting and Landslides - Types, Components, Causes and Prone Areas

Introduction to landslides in North Carolina. Many factors can cause rock and soil to move downhill. Sometimes the movement is slow, but often it is fast and can destroy homes or cover roads and highways. This section introduces you to landslides, one of the most common geologic hazards in North Carolina and the processes behind them; scroll down for more information. Also available on this page are links to county-specific information for the four North Carolina counties that have mapping completed for landslide hazards, Macon , Watauga , Buncombe , and Henderson.

These counties are shown on the map below. Select from the the county name listings above or below the map to view available landslide hazard information for that county. Reports and publications of landslides in North Carolina. How to recognize landslides and how to deal with them. Gravity moves broken pieces of rock, large or small, downslope. These forces of erosion will be covered later.

While plate tectonics forces work to build huge mountains and other landscapes, the forces of weathering and mass wasting gradually wear those rocks and landscapes away, called denudation. Together with erosion, tall mountains turn into hills and even plains. No human being can watch for millions of years as mountains are built, nor can anyone watch as those same mountains gradually are worn away. But imagine a new sidewalk or road. The new road is smooth and even. Over hundreds of years, it will completely disappear, but what happens over one year?

What changes would you see? What forces of weathering wear down that road, or rocks or mountains over time? These smaller pieces are just like the bigger rock, just smaller.

Geohazards (U.S. National Park Service)

That means the rock has changed physically without changing its composition. The smaller pieces have the same minerals, in just the same proportions as the original rock. There are many ways that rocks can be broken apart into smaller pieces. Ice wedging works quickly, breaking apart rocks in areas with temperatures that cycle above and below freezing in the day and night, and also that cycle above and below freezing with the seasons.

Ice wedging breaks apart so much rock that large piles of broken rock are seen at the base of a hillside called talus. Abrasion is another form of mechanical weathering. In abrasion, one rock bumps against another rock. Gravity causes abrasion as a rock tumbles down a mountainside or cliff. Moving water causes abrasion as particles in the water collide and bump against one another. Strong winds carrying pieces of sand can sandblast surfaces. Ice in glaciers carries many bits and pieces of rock.

Rocks embedded at the bottom of the glacier scrape against the rocks below. Abrasion makes rocks with sharp or jagged edges smooth and round. If you have ever collected beach glass or cobbles from a stream, you have witnessed the work of abrasion. Now that you know what mechanical weathering is, can you think of other ways it could happen? Plants and animals can do the work of mechanical weathering. Burrowing animals can also break apart rock as they dig for food or to make living spaces for themselves.

Mechanical weathering increases the rate of chemical weathering. As rock breaks into smaller pieces, the surface area of the pieces increases. With more surfaces exposed, there are more surfaces on which chemical weathering can occur. Chemical weathering is different from mechanical weathering because the rock changes, not just in size of pieces, but in composition. That is, one type of mineral changes into a different mineral. Chemical weathering works through chemical reactions that cause changes in the minerals.

Most minerals form at high pressure or high temperatures deep in the crust, or sometimes in the mantle. This is a very different environment from the one in which they formed and the minerals are no longer stable.

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Many silicate minerals form in igneous or metamorphic rocks deep within the earth. The minerals that form at the highest temperatures and pressures are the least stable at the surface. Clay is stable at the surface and chemical weathering converts many minerals to clay. There are many types of chemical weathering because there are many agents of chemical weathering.


Water is the most important agent of chemical weathering. Two other important agents of chemical weathering are carbon dioxide and oxygen. But water is pretty remarkable in terms of all the things it can do.

Water is a polar molecule; the positive side of the molecule attracts negative ions and the negative side attracts positive ions. So water molecules separate the ions from their compounds and surround them. Water can completely dissolve some minerals, such as salt. Hydrolysis is the name of the chemical reaction between a chemical compound and water. When this reaction takes place, water dissolves ions from the mineral and carries them away. These elements have undergone leaching. Through hydrolysis, a mineral such as potassium feldspar is leached of potassium and changed into a clay mineral.

This makes a weak acid, called carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is a very common in nature where it works to dissolve rock. Pollutants, such as sulfur and nitrogen, from fossil fuel burning, create sulfuric and nitric acid. Sulfuric and nitric acids are the two main components of acid rain, which accelerate chemical weathering.

Oxygen is very strongly chemically reactive. The most familiar type of oxidation is when iron reacts with oxygen to create rust.