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Complex geology and variable topography along the 250-kilometer-long Hurricane fault in northwestern Arizona and southwestern Utah combine to create natural conditions that can present a potential danger to life and property. Geologic hazards are of particular concern in southwestern Utah, where the St. George Basin and Interstate-15 corridor north to Cedar City are one of Utah's fastest growing areas. Lying directly west of the Hurricane fault and within the Basin and Range - Colorado Plateau transition zone, this region exhibits geologic characteristics of both physiographic provinces. Long, potentially active, normal-slip faults displace a generally continuous stratigraphic section of mostly east-dipping late Paleozoic to Cretaceous sedimentary rocks unconformably overlain by Tertiary to Holocene sedimentary and igneous rocks and unconsolidated basin-fill deposits. Geologic hazards (exclusive of earthquake hazards) of principal concern in the region include problem soil and rock, landslides, shallow ground water, and flooding. Geologic materials susceptible to volumetric change, collapse, and subsidence in southwestern Utah include; expansive soil and rock, collapse-prone soil, gypsum and gypsiferous soil, soluble carbonate rocks, and soil and rock subject to piping and other ground collapse. Expansive soil and rock are widespread throughout the region. The Petrified Forest Member of the Chinle Formation is especially prone to large volume changes with variations in moisture content. Collapse-prone soils are common in areas of Cedar City underlain by alluvial-fan material derived from the Moenkopi and Chinle Formations in the nearby Hurricane Cliffs. Gypsiferous soil and rock are subject to dissolution which can damage foundations and create sinkholes. The principal formations in the region affected by dissolution of carbonate are the Kaibab and Toroweap Formations; both formations have developed sinkholes where crossed by perennial streams. Soil piping is common in southwestern Utah where it has damaged roads, canal embankments, and water-retention structures. Several unexplained sinkholes near the town of Hurricane possibly are the result of collapse of subsurface volcanic features. Geologic formations associated with slope failures along or near the Hurricane fault include rocks of both Mesozoic and Tertiary age. Numerous landslides are present in these materials along the Hurricane Cliffs, and the Petrified Forest Member of the Chinle Formation is commonly associated with slope failures where it crops out in the St. George Basin. Steep slopes and numerous areas of exposed bedrock make rock fall a hazard in the St. George Basin. Debris flows and debris floods in narrow canyons and on alluvial fans often accompany intense summer cloudburst thunderstorms. Flooded basements and foundation problems associated with shallow ground water are common on benches north of the Santa Clara River in the city of Santa Clara. Stream flooding is the most frequently occurring and destructive geologic hazard in southwestern Utah. Since the 1850s, there have been three major riverine (regional) floods and more than 300 damaging flash floods. Although a variety of flood control measures have been implemented, continued rapid growth in the region is again increasing vulnerability to flood hazards. Site-specific studies to evaluate geologic hazards and identify hazard-reduction measures are recommended prior to construction to reduce the need for costly repair, maintenance, or replacement of improperly placed or protected facilities.
Additional Publication Details
Geologic hazards in the region of the Hurricane fault