Benchmarks: January 3–5, 1982: 18,000 landslides wreak havoc on the San Francisco Bay area

When a storm battered California’s San Francisco Bay Area in early January 1982, the rain was intense, but not without precedent. The region had historically endured heavy rains during the winter months, with individual storms sometimes bringing more than half the annual average rainfall in a single 36-hour span. But a collection of unique factors in 1982 created a recipe for a landslide disaster. First, two weather fronts merged, bringing copious amounts of rain to an already saturated region. Second, the rising population had resulted in a construction boom in the iconic hills of the Bay Area. During three days of relentless rain from Jan. 3–5, 1982, a record 18,000 individual landslides occurred, killing at least 25 people.
 

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Meg Marquardt

Marquardt is a freelance writer in Omaha, Neb. 

Monday, January 2, 2012 - 06:00