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Lack of rain lessens Arizona’s potential for landslides

PHOENIX — An expert said Arizona has the potential for landslides similar to the one that has devastated a Washington state community, but it’s unlikely.

The deadly slide in Oso, Wash. over the weekend has left 25 people dead and 90 listed as missing. Landslide hazards are always present in the mountains of Arizona but Mike Conway with the Arizona Geological Survey said the difference between Arizona and Washington is rainfall.

“If we had the same rainfall that Washington state has had in the past year we would have problems with debris flows or smaller landslides. We had a landslide in 2008 on the Beeline Highway near Payson that shut down the highway for several days,” Conway said.

“ADOT has done a lot of work along the Beeline to identify potential landslide danger zones. Events like the dramatic collapse in Washington are unusual.”

Conway said the McDowell Mountains, 20 miles northeast of Phoenix, had one of Arizona’s largest landslides. According to the Survey, about 500,000 years ago, a portion of the east-central summit of the McDowell Mountains collapsed into a catastrophic rock avalanche. The landslide brought down enough earthen material to fill six Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadiums.