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The most dramatic geologic effect of the M-5.7 St. George, Utah earthquake of 2 September 1992 was the triggering of the 14,000,000-m3 Springdale, Utah landslide. The roughly 10 m of landslide movement destroyed three houses, threatened several condominiums, disrupted utility lines, and temporarily closed the southwest entrance to Zion National Park. The seismic triggering of this landslide is puzzling because its distance from the earthquake epicenter, 44 km, is much greater than the farthest distance (18 km) at which similar landslides have been triggered in worldwide earthquakes of the same magnitude. Other Colorado Plateau earthquakes also have produced landslides far beyond worldwide distance limits, which suggests that regional variations in ground-shaking attenuation may require different landslide-triggering distance limits for different seismotectonic regions. Slope stability analysis and historical records of landslide movement suggest that the Springdale landslide was only slightly above limit-equilibrium conditions at the time of the earthquake. Dynamic stability analysis using Newmark's permanent-displacement method indicates coseismic landslide displacement of only 1-8 cm; this rather modest displacement probably induced enough deformation in the montmorillonitic clays along the failure surface to reduce shear strength and destabilize the slide, which continued to move for several hours after the earthquake.
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The Springdale, Utah, landslide: An extraordinary event