'Tis the season for landslides, mudslides, rock slides and debris flows

With the wildfire season pretty much over, thanks to the heavy rains statewide, we've now entered the next major disaster doorway: landslides.

So, now is the time for residents and property owners near hills to start checking you property above and below.

That's because the Bay Area is landslide country, as is much of the state, where people build on top, on the side or at the foot of hillsides.

Most come without warning, even though there are often warning signs.

Dr. Laura Sullivan-Green, a San Jose State University Environmental Engineer says one of the most important things to keep an eye on is drainage. Check to see if there is movement happening. "The drainage of the property is gonna be the best prevention that homeowners have," said Sullivan-Green.

In 2011, a landslide caused by intense rains between Hillside and Wyman in San Pablo damaged 6 homes.

A fight and litigation between the residents and the city over poor drainage issues dragged on for years.

Eventually, the homeowners had to sue each other to get each other's insurers to put pilings down to bedrock. But, their insurers later canceled several of them, and the fight goes on.

In 2017, a landslide destroyed one home and caused the red tagging of two others as part of a high hillside behind them gave way.

Ever since, no one here has been unaware or unconcerned with the hillside, especially when there are heavy rains.

"The hills can come down again like it happened a few days ago, you had to see the street was really covered with mud," said Juan Alvarez, whose home was heavily damaged in the slide.

Perhaps the only thing larger than the enormous pile of rock and soil are the mountains of legal papers that have been filed over lawsuit regarding this slide; lawsuits that will continue for years to come.

"They call it an 'Act of God.' They cleaned their hands and said Act of God," said Mr. Alvarez. "Insurances are kind of flaky as far as I'm concerned. They try to not pay and when you make your premiums it's great but if you need a claim, they don't want to pay and they dump you if they can," said neighbor Howard Levenson.  

A February landslide in Sausalito injured a woman and destroyed two homes. It took almost the rest of the year to clean-up. One resident said many folks are worried sick and some can't sleep at night.

The Bay Area's worst swarm of slides happened in January of 1982. Over three days, 25 people were killed in slides. The Montecito slide, near Santa Barbara two years ago, killed 23. The 2014 Oso Slide in Washington State killed 43.