Federal grant will help KGS researcher develop landslide models

A new three-year project funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will allow the Kentucky Geological Survey to create landslide susceptibility models and risk assessments for communities in the Big Sandy Area Development District of eastern Kentucky. Landslide researcher Matt Crawford, who will lead the project, will also use the funding to work with local officials in the 5 counties of the ADD, helping them adopt strategies for reducing landslide risks to buildings and infrastructure and improve response and recovery for landslide events.

“I was super excited when news about the grant came in. The timing was perfect,” says Crawford, who has spent the last few years compiling a statewide landslide inventory database, conducting site-specific monitoring projects, and using LiDAR data sets to map landslides.

The $300,212 grant from FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant program came through Kentucky’s Division of Emergency Management. It will be matched by $100,196 from KGS. Crawford had updated the landslide assessment section of Kentucky’s statewide mitigation plan in a project completed by KGS earlier this year for the state agency. But this project will be much more detailed. “We’ll be working with a smaller area, a different scale geology, higher resolution slope maps, and other data sets. We’ll also fine-tune the methodology with model inputs like slope, curvature, and wetness indexes and all of these derivatives you can do with the LiDAR data. I hope we come up with some robust techniques that result in meaningful details of landslide susceptibility,” Crawford says. He also plans to develop probabilistic landslide models to determine which models work for Kentucky with what is known about landslides and soil properties here.

His first task will be to meet the local officials to explain his project and ask for their input. Local officials have the responsibility to enact any mitigation practices or projects in their jurisdictions. Crawford, who recently completed his PhD, focusing on landslide processes and conditions that lead to slope movement, wants to help them recognize the costs and dangers of landslides in Kentucky, particularly on steep landscapes in eastern Kentucky.

“Direct costs of landslides rival flood costs in Kentucky. We haven’t had a landslide fatality in the state in a long time, if ever, but we see damaged or destroyed homes all the time and near-injury situations,” Crawford says. “To do research work with innovative data sets, while also conducting outreach with communities, makes this the perfect project for the KGS and for the university.

Sarah Arpin emerges from “The Keyhole,” an obstacle on the route to Floyd’s Lost Passage in Floyd Collins Crystal Cave, at Mammoth Cave National Park.
Matt Crawford inspects landslide damage to a house in Boyd County, Ky.

While attending last summer’s National Speleological Society Convention in Montana, Arpin took in several nearby parks, including Glacier National Park, where she visited St. Mary Falls. 
Crawford maintains a database of Kentucky landslides, and information on each slide is available on the KGS Geologic Map Information Service.



Last Modified on 2023-01-05
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