Geomorphological mapping and geotechnical testing of the March 22, 2014, SR530 landslide near Oso, Washington
Abstract:The March 22, 2014 landslide near Oso, Washington devastated a community, killing 43 people, destroying dozens of homes, and temporarily closing a section of State Route (SR) 530. The landslide, characterized as a debris avalanche – debris flow – rotational slide, was triggered by heavy precipitation in the region and initiated from a 200 m tall section of Pleistocene glacial deposits. The entire landslide encompassed an area of 1.2 km2. To understand the mobility of this landslide, we performed geological and geomorphological mapping throughout the initiation, transport, and deposition zones. In addition, we mapped a 450-m-long cross-section through the western distal lobe created by the excavation to reopen the SR530 roadbed to temporary traffic. Samples collected during mapping were used for geotechnical testing to evaluate the mobility of the landslide materials.
Our detailed (1:300) geological mapping of the excavation revealed the juxtaposition of sand (glacial outwash) and clay (glaciolacustrine) debris avalanche hummocks towards the distal end of the landslide. Further, we found that two sections of the roadbed, having a combined length of at least 150 m, were entrained in the landslide. Throughout the debris avalanche deposit, 1:1200-scale geomorphological mapping identified a preponderance of sand boils located within thinner deposits between hummocks, suggesting that liquefaction played a role in the landslides mobility. In the central distal end of the landslide, we mapped on-lap deposits, wherein distal debris flow material overrode smaller hummocks of the larger debris avalanche deposit. Discovery of these deposits indicates that the run out of the landslide might have been even longer in places had topographic barriers (i.e., the other side of the valley) not reflected the flow back towards itself.