Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Haywood County Mountain Real Estate: Wild Acres Landslides

Wild Acres Landslide Photos Maggie Valley, NC

Upper left photo: DOT engineer above the Jones' landslide at the intersection of Dogwood Road and Wildcat Run in Maggie Valley- December 12, 2003—The Enterprise-Mountaineer.

Upper right photo: Jones' rescue scene-Locust Drive-December 11, 2003 —NCGS

Next photo: Bruce & Lorraine Donins' home on 93 Wildcat Run prior to landslide.

Last photo: what used to be the Donins' home- January 2009—Asheville Citizen-Times

Appearances are Deceiving

Anyone driving through the Wild Acres neighborhood today, would not suspect that unstable-land conditions were responsible for loss of life and property destruction. All evidence of the Jones and Donin landslides has been removed. Yet, as this Haywood County Stability Index Hazard Map reveals, the cause of these tragedies still exists.

Haywood County Landslide Map

Unpublished Haywood County Stability Index Hazard Map.
Risk models show that 49% of Haywood County land is unstable.

Haywood County Mountain Real Estate: Hazardous-Land Disclosure

Currently Realtors and developers are not obliged to disclose that Haywood County is one of twenty-one Western North Carolina counties designated landslide-hazardous by Federal Emergency Management Agency officials.

Landslide Insurance

Those engaged in the business of hazardous-land residential development do not warn their clients that they will be self-insuring for expected landslide property damage. The insurance industry has evaluated the costs of insuring homes on unstable ground and as a consequence will not provide coverage for earth movement-related losses.

Haywood County Landslides 2003

The following archived article provides a realistic assessment of the costs of owning Haywood County mountain real estate.

"Landslides rise with development"— The Enterprise-Mountaineer
Darren Miller— December 12, 2003
Landslides, debris flows, mudslides, mudflows, and debris avalanches are all synonymous terms used to describe what has become an all too (common) geological occurrence in Haywood County.

After searching throughout the better part of Thursday for a woman trapped in her Maggie Valley home demolished by a landslide, Maggie Valley Fire Chief Tim Carver acknowledged the increased frequency of landslides in the area, pointing out that this was the first time one resulted in the loss of a home and the loss of a life.

As more mountainside property is carved out to build homes, the risk of landslides increases exponentially.

In the span of eight months, three major landslides have caused significant property damage, and now a death in Haywood County.

After several days of rain in May, Sidney and Delores Hitt of the Big Branch section of Crabtree were forced to leave their home when the driveway collapsed, exposing septic tiles. The Hitts, who are retired and live on a fixed income, faced upwards of $50,000 in repairs.

And only three weeks ago, Bob and Jan Roberts awoke to a landslide on their three-tiered, steeply sloped front yard. As dry underground springs filled to capacity and burst after a year of heavy rainfall, the 100-foot-wide and 50-foot-long section loosened, eventually giving way and resulting in the landslide. The Roberts now face paying at least $20,000 to correctly repair the property.

Marc Pruett, an erosion control specialist for Haywood County, said rushing to close a real estate deal often results in critical and potentially dangerous oversights.

Pruett said people building or buying homes on steep terrain should take full advantage of available resources, such as testing soil samples for compactibility and bonding strength, researching publications like “Mountain Home Guide” and seeking advice from the Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District.

As Noel Menger looked down at her neighbor’s devastation with horror Thursday, she recalled some of the scary incidents she has faced in her two years at her Maggie Valley home.

“We put a 60-foot-high wall with three tiers behind the house,” she said, “but on the side of the house there is a steep hill and rocks seem to filter down every day.”

Menger said big boulders avalanched down the slope, barricading the door, after she had lived in the house for only a month.

Steve Williams, a Maggie Valley native, said something needs to be done about the landslide problem and hopes it won’t take another situation like the one his longtime friends, Edward and Patricia Jones experienced Thursday morning.

“When I heard there was a landslide in Maggie Valley, I almost assumed it might be my house," said Williams, a resident of the Horseshoe Cove community where landslides have become increasingly more common.

“You have to have some sort of rules,” he said, adding that higher engineering standards should be enforced as more and more developments are built. “What goes on above you affects the people below when you build on a mountain.”

According to the U. S. Geological Survey, landslides occur in every state and U. S. territory, with the Appalachian Mountains, the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast ranges suffering from severe landslide problems.

While realizing that the physical cause of landslides cannot be removed, the USGS suggests that geological investigations, good engineering practices and effective enforcement of land-use management regulations can reduce landslide hazards.

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