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Utah geologist not surprised Draper homes tumbled down hillside

Posted at 3:09 PM, Apr 24, 2023

DRAPER, Utah — The Draper home collapse over the weekend was a catastrophe for the homeowners and scary for neighbors, but it's not so surprising to experts who study landslides over the long term.

Senior Geologist Ben Erickson with the Utah Geological Survey didn't seem surprised over what occurred along the hillside.

"I guess if it's going to happen, this would be a place where it would," he said. "The area has kind of been known for having the geologic material that is prone for landsliding. And so if you look over the area, and look at the geologic units, those are consistent with what we kind of expect to have the potential for sliding."

In addition, Erickson saw a telltale sign of melting snowpack as the cause of the slide.

"You can see a long run out from the landslide itself, where it went down the ravine, so it kind of flowed down the ravine as well. And so that indicates that the material that actually failed and went down the ravine, got really mobilized and with water," said Erickson.

Before the pandemic, just three years ago, the site had no homes as the development was brand new.

Once built, the homes sat on the edge of a 25-30% percent slope. For perspective, the steepest highway in Utah who goes from Parowan to Brian Head reaches a slope of 13 percent, while a typical stairway goes up at a 30-40 percent slope.

So what's a homebuyer to do? Erickson says the simple answer is reach out to state geologist like himself. Residents and would-be residents can CLICK HERE on the state's website to submit a question or call the office at the numbers provided.