NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah (ABC4) – Geologists with the Utah Geological Survey are actively monitoring landslides as Utah’s record-breaking snowpack continues to melt, increasing the likelihood of landslides. In North Salt Lake, a slow-moving landslide that began decades ago continues to play an important role in helping these geologists better understand the nature of landslides in the Beehive State.   

Near the bottom of the Springhill Landslide (referred to as the foot of the landslide), a delightful daffodil blooms. While its bright yellow color appears gleeful, it also serves as a dim reminder of a disastrous past.  

“At the head scar for the landslide, that’s what that big fissure is, when this thing started in the late 90s there were 18 homes down there that are no longer there,” Utah Geological Survey Lead Geologist Greg McDonald explained while pointing to the head scar. The large fissure looks like a deep and wide trench that someone dug out on the side of the hill.  

This scar is one of the few reminders of a neighborhood that disappeared.  McDonald added: “Some of them were damaged in 1998 pretty significantly but it took many years for the rest of them to become damaged enough that eventually the whole neighborhood had to be demolished.”  

Since 1998, the slow-moving landslide has grown more than 700 feet wide and 300 feet long. The former neighborhood is now Springhill Geologic Park.  Geologists continue to use the park to study landslides and how they act.

It is one of about 100 that geologists continue to monitor regularly across the state. Why do they do this? State Geologist, Bill Keach, explained: “The last thing you want to see is your home falling down. I had a problem on a home I built in Hurricane. An underground water leak caused my home to break in half, so I understand. I know that pain. I’ve lived through that.”  

Keach said they work with lawmakers to keep them informed on areas that could be considered high-risk for landslides.

“What’s happening now is we hope our engineering is better, but our urban sprawl has pushed us into areas that we weren’t built before,” stated Keach. 

Keach said they share their information with lawmakers as a way to hopefully prevent homes from being built in dangerous areas. However, many may already be in those areas. This spring, the geologists are tracking a handful of new slides. One of those slides took place in Mountain Green over the weekend.

“There’s a long history of land sliding in that area and predevelopment even, looking at aerial imagery, you can map out a lot of preexisting landslides in that area, so it wasn’t surprising to us,” McDonald said.  

The slide caused two homes to be evacuated with the debris sliding to the back of one home. The geologists praised the homeowner for actively working to remove debris, mud and water from the area surrounding the house.  

“We’re trying to keep an eye on that and actively map where people are,” Keach stated. Doing so helps the state get a better idea of what populated areas are in zones that are at higher risk for landslides.

When a slide occurs, Utah Geological Survey sends out geologists, like lead geologist Ben Erickson, to the site. “We go out to assist the local, either the homeowner, the property owner, local governments to help identify what the extent of the damage is and if there are any further hazards they need to be aware of,” Erickson stated.  

Water is a major cause of landslides. Utah Geological Survey is preparing for an active landslide season as Utah’s record-breaking snowpack continues to melt.