Our Opinion: Will a landslide trigger Wyoming Valley flooding? That’s low on our list of worries

October 7th, 2015 3:04 pm

And the rock shall cascade from the mountainsides, clogging the river and flooding all the land. And the people shall suffer.

Rather than a passage from the biblical book of Revelation, that’s a summation of how risk assessors believe chunks of Shickshinny Mountain could one day shear off and cause catastrophic flooding along Luzerne County’s riverside communities. In a worst-case situation, they say, the resulting water backup on the Susquehanna River might drench low-lying properties as far north as Exeter Township and Duryea.

Easy there, ark builders. Don’t start buying planks today.

At the risk of sounding cavalier, we don’t think this disaster scenario is anything over which area residents should lose one wink of sleep.

Authors of the “Luzerne County Hazard Mitigation Plan 2014 Update” – a document that county council is expected to belatedly approve next week – refer to the root of this natural calamity as a “rock block slide.” The rest of us know it as a landslide. Minor ones have happened here in recent history, causing temporary disruptions such as road closures.

If a sizable slide occurred at some point, it probably would be precipitated by a long period of drenching rainfall or a fierce earthquake. In other words, we’d already be seeing swarms of locusts and four horsemen on the horizon.

Better to worry about, and put our communities’ collective resources toward, the more likely and preventable problems to strike our region. The mitigation plan outlines those risks too. Among them: hazardous material spills, a nuclear release, dam failure, land subsidence, blizzards and wildfires.

County and local officials would be wise to concentrate on those matters. As for Shickshinny Mountain, let’s start by driving some stakes into the ground to gauge possible earth movement as opposed to, say, paying for a quarter-million-dollar, geological surveillance setup.

Of more importance, area residents, planners and elected officials should pay attention to the mitigation plan’s preventive measures (see page 71 of the report), which include actions such as promoting “responsible growth and development” and maintaining open space in floodplains and watersheds.

Likewise, leaders of Luzerne County’s government and all the county’s 76 municipalities should be certain to carefully review and give their formal OK to the plan. “Any jurisdiction that does not adopt the 2014 Plan Update,” it states, “will become ineligible for pre- and post-disaster mitigation efforts.”

Neglecting to approve a hazard mitigation plan and potentially losing out on aid – now that’s something of which county residents should be afraid, very afraid.

Muddy water from the Susquehanna River spilled into West Pittston during a prior flood; what should we do in Luzerne County to mitigate future natural disasters? (Times Leader file photo)
http://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/web1_Flooding.jpgMuddy water from the Susquehanna River spilled into West Pittston during a prior flood; what should we do in Luzerne County to mitigate future natural disasters? (Times Leader file photo)


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