Landslides in the counties of Western North Carolina are frequent, but not publicized, geologic events. State geologists warn that evidence shows construction on unreliable slopes will trigger landslides.
According to Tyler Clark, chief geologist with the North Carolina Geological Survey, "There have been landslides in the North Carolina mountains since prehistoric times, but now more people are vulnerable because more people are choosing to live in areas that may be prone to landslides. When you add to that hurricanes or other storms that could start a landslide you have a really dangerous situation."
"Our studies of landslides across North Carolina over the last year and a half indicate that a large number of them occurred because of things that people have done to alter the landscape. These activities have included construction of roads, house building, and the cutting of trees. When you try to develop land on a steep slope, you can change a stable condition to an unstable one."
Geologic maps show that about 56% of all landslides in Macon County occurred on slopes that had been altered by human activity.
Mr. Clark also states "You can build in many places in North Carolina, but you have to do it right. You need to have good planning, design, and construction anytime you develop, and part of that is knowing what hazards to look for."
In Western North Carolina the selection of building sites has been left to the discretion of county planners and real estate developers.
Planning on buying property in Western North Carolina? Check with the county office for a copy of their slope regulations. If the ordinances do not include a site specific stability study as a requirement for the building permit there is a reasonable possibility that the slope is unstable. For more information about safe building sites check with the North Carolina Geological Survey.