Five Disastrious Canadian Landslides That Changed the Landscape

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Like other countries through out the world Canada also has it fair share of devastation and natural disasters. Here in Canada tornados and hurricanes are not as much of a problem as in other countries but instead many of our natural disasters involve ice, rain and earthquakes which usually cause or triggers deadly landslides.

Here’s my list of only five massive Canadian landslides that changed some peoples lives and killed others. Some have been forgotten about and others will always remain in the mind of locals or families who lost loved ones.

1. Frank Landslide, Alberta
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This could easily be called one of Canada’s worst landslides if not the worst natural disaster in Canadian history.

Calgary, Alberta is home to some of the most remote and beautiful towns left in Canada and in 1903 the town of Frank was one of these towns. Frank was a small mining town located in basically a valley of mountains and cliffs. Nearby lurking over the town is the infamous Turtle Mountain the site of one of Canada’s worst landslides.

The story goes in 1901 an excavation began to sink a mine shaft into the bowels of Turtle Mountain in order to be able to mine the massive coal deposits through out the mountain. By October of the following year there was already over 2,300 feet of tunnels along the vein of the coal. Soon afterwards residents and area miners started to noticed tremors and especially in the early morning hours but they just went on with their lives.

By 1903, the mine was very productive and had virtually become a “Self-Operating” meaning all the miners had to do was shovel the coal because it was basically falling from the ceiling. Little did the miners and residents know that life as they knew it was about to take a drastic change.

On the early morning of April 29, 1903 Turtle Mountain which was the site of the town’s prosperity for 2 years became the site of disaster when pretty much half of mountain slid down over a 2 km distance burying miners and residents and destroying half the town. Two minutes later everything laid in silence until people started realizing what had happen. In less then 100 seconds the town had been virtually wiped out and covered with tons of limestone boulders.

When a few days had passed and all survivors had been rescued the real damage was apparent. A total of 76 people had been buried alive under tons of rock and three quarter of the homes in Frank Town had been destroyed along with roads, train tracks and bridges.

The Frank Slide to this day is considered by many to be Canada’s worst landslide, especially to the residents of Alberta, Calgary.

2. Hope Landslide, British Columbia
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The Hope Slide is known as one of the largest landslides in Canadian history. Like the Frank Slide it was spectacular in changing the landscape but it also proved deadly to two unfortunate drivers and their passengers in the area.

Driving through the British Columbia mountains has always giving the residents and travelers the sense they are totally free and basically safe from harm although many are aware of small snow avalanches so they tend to keep watch but on January 9, 1965 two travelers were about to learn the real dangers of driving these mountain highways and you can’t always avoid the dangers of the mountains.

It is said in the early morning hours of January 9, a small earthquake shook some large rocks and snow loose from the eastside of “Johnson Peak” that fell onto the Hope-Princeton Highway and blocking it. As four cars sat on one side of the block highway they were contemplating waiting for the road crews or turning around.
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As 2 of the cars backed up and started to go back the way they came, another small earthquake below the mountain trigger the whole eastside of “Johnston Peak” to slid down the mountain covering 3 km of the highway and burying 2 of the cars under 85 meters of rock debris.

Rescuers tried their hardest to recover survivors but the extent of the debris left little hope and eventually only 2 bodies out 4 were recovered leaving the other 2 people entomb in their cars since 1965. Eventually the highway was rerouted around the base of the landslide.

This still remains to be one of the most extreme landslides British Columbia has experienced.

3. Saint-Jean-Vianney Slide, Quebec
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Now we go to the eastern side of Canada where the mountains are not as much of a problem as water is. On the eastern side of Canada water has proven through out the years to be one of the biggest factors that eventually lead to something big like flooding and landslides which the residents of Saint Jean Vianney, Quebec learned the hard way.

This particular town was built on a 5 century old landslide which the residents had no idea of. Only 100 feet below their feet and streets, a clay layer which had formed over the many years had turned into basically liquid and was flowing like a river.

In April residents had received a lot of heavy rains which didn’t run off but rather got absorbed into the ground so by May 4, 1971 it just got to be too much for the ground to sustain.

On May 4, some people started to notice cracks on the street and on the sidewalks appearing while other noticed the foundations of their houses had dropped and as much as 8 inches in some cases. Most of the residents figured it was due to all the previous rain they had the month before and they were right but had no idea on the scale of destruction that was about to happen. It was around 10:45 when a liquefied river of mud and debris started flowing through the canyon and 100 feet under ground in certain parts of the town eventually joining with Sageunay River. Eventually the landslide started to lead to a crater forming which keep swallowing houses and streets one after another as it grew in size.

At midnight it was all over and everyone was rescued shortly after. Damage was estimated to be around $1 million, left a half a mile 100 foot deep crater in the town and claimed the lives of 33 people who where probably asleep.

Shortly after the disaster, the government came in and did soil test and took samples only to determine that this would probably happen again in the near future. Soil experts and landslides specialists determined that the entire area as unfit for habitation so the Canadian Government moved all the residents to a new community at Arvida.

4. Fraser Canyon Slide 1997, British Columbia
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Although this landslide is not as big as the previous ones you read about it still changed the landscape and sadly enough claimed 2 lives.

This is the site of Fraser Canyon landslide which took place on March 26, 1997 near Conrad, BC. Water from heavy rains and melting snow off the mountain pass had been heavy that year and unfortunately the underground drainage system didn’t carry off the water like it was suppose to do.

Finally after days of the ground soaking in constant large volumes of water, it just gave lose carrying everything in its pass to the bottom of the canyon. When the commotion settled 2 people had died, 14 freight cars and 2 locomotives were destroyed beyond repair, 1,200 feet of railroad track was destroyed and part of the Trans Canada Highway was damage. Other then all the damage I say people where pretty luck that stretch off road wasn’t really busy that day.

5. Lemieux Slide, Ontario
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Finally on the list we have the Lemieux Landslide in Ontario, Canada. There use to be a town of Lemieux until 1989 when government officials had identified the Lemieux area unfit to live because of a serious threat of a landslide happening in the soon near to be future.

The ground under Lemieux was acceptable to landslides for centuries because it was clay like material that had a habit of turning into liquefied material similar to water which could cause a landslide. In 1971, that’s exactly what happened.

In 1989, officials figured it was time to act before something devastating happened to the town so the Canadian Government relocated the whole town to a new area. It took residents just a little over 2 years to finally and completely abandon the Town of Lemieux and good thing they did because in 1993 only a year after the residents left, the massive landslide in the picture over took 17 hectors of farming land and parts of the town were residents use to reside.

So that’s my list of amazing landslides that changed our Canadian landscape. It’s sad when a force of nature takes lives so abruptly but I guess in mans conquest to conquer nature there’s bound to be some innocent causalities along the way.

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