Landslide, Karst and Earthquake Resources



What is a Landslide? The term landslide includes a wide range of ground movement, such as rock falls, deep failure of slopes, and shallow debris flows. Although gravity acting on an over-steepened slope is the primary reason for a landslide, there are other contributing factors:

  • erosion by rivers, glaciers, or ocean waves create oversteepened slopes
  • rock and soil slopes are weakened through saturation by snowmelt or heavy rains
  • earthquakes create stresses that make weak slopes fail
  • earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 and greater have been known to trigger landslides
  • volcanic eruptions produce loose ash deposits, heavy rain, and debris flows
  • excess weight from accumulation of rain or snow, stockpiling of rock or ore, from waste piles, or from man-made structures may stress weak slopes to failure and other structures

Slope material that become saturated with water may develop a debris flow or mud flow. The resulting slurry of rock and mud may pick up trees, houses, and cars, thus blocking bridges and tributaries causing flooding along its path.


KGS Landslide Resources

KGS Landslide Information Map:  This map is a qualitative evaluation of known landslides. The interactive and customizable map service shows data from the KGS statewide landslide inventory database within a geologic and geomorphic context. This map services assists users in investigations of landslide hazard areas by showing the known existing landslides. This information allows for better determination of where future landslides may occur and help develop hazard mitigation strategies.  Help file:

KGS Landslide Inventory:  An information circular explaining the how’s and why’s of the landslide inventory work.

Landslides and Your Property:  A combined pamphlet-style publication by the KGS, U. of Cincinnati, the Indiana Geological Survey, and the Ohio Geological Survey.

The Geologic Context of Landslide and Rockfall Maintenance Costs in Kentucky:  A KGS report of investigations that assessed KYTC landslide and rockfall cost data and geology along roadways.

Using LiDAR to Map Landslides in Kenton and Campbell Counties, Kentucky  KGS report of investigations that mapped existing landslides using LiDAR.

Geologic, geotechnical, and geophysical investigation of a shallow landslide, eastern Kentucky  KGS report of investigations that characterized and monitored a shallow colluvial landslide near Ashland, KY.


USGS Landslide Links

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Landslides in Colluvium 1994, Fleming, Robert W.; Johnson, Arvid M. USGS Bulletin: 2059-B.  Link here for Full-text PDF or go to



Where Is Karst Located in Kentucky?

Kentucky is one of the most famous karst areas in the world. Much of the state’s beautiful scenery, particularly the horse farms of the Inner Bluegrass, is the result of development of karst landscape. The karst topography of Kentucky is mostly on limestone, but also some dolostone. The areas where those rockss are near the surface closely approximate where karst topography will form. The map below shows the outcrop of limestone and dolostone and closely represents the karst areas. The bedrock is millions of years old, and the karst terrain formed on them is hundreds of thousands of years old. In humid climates such as Kentucky’s you should assume that all limestone has karst development, although that development may not be visible at the surface.

The outcrop area of the limestone bedrock in Kentucky has been used to estimate the percentage of karst terrain or topography in the state. About 55 percent of Kentucky is underlain by rocks that could develop karst terrain, given enough time. About 38 percent of the state has at least some karst development recognizable on topographic maps, and 25 percent of the state is known to have well-developed karst features. Some Kentucky cities located on karst include (in the Inner Bluegrass) Frankfort, Louisville, Lexington, Lawrenceburg, Georgetown, Winchester, Paris, Versailles, and Nicholasville; (in the Western Pennyroyal) the communities of Fort Knox, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Munfordville, Russellville, Hopkinsville, and Princeton; (in the Eastern Pennyroyal) Somerset, Monticello, and Mount Vernon.

Karst Resources/Links


Earthquake Resources

Earthquakes in Kentucky: Hazards, mitigation, and emergency preparedness:  Produced by the KGS and KYEM.

Rapid Visual Screening of Buildings for Potential Seismic Hazards  January 2015  The Rapid Visual Screening (RVS) handbook can be used by trained personnel to identify, inventory, and screen buildings that are potentially seismically vulnerable. The RVS procedure comprises a method and several forms that help users to quickly identify, inven

tory, and score buildings according to their risk of collapse if hit by major earthquakes. The RVS handbook describes how to identify the structural type and key weakness characteristics, how to complete the screening forms, and how to manage a successful RVS program.
Rapid Visual Screening of Buildings for Potential Seismic Hazards: Supporting Documentation. Third Edition (FEMA P-155).  The third edition of the Supporting Documentation (FEMA P-155) describes the technical background and process used to update the Handbook and the revisions considered and conclusions reached. Extensive detail is also provided in FEMA P-155 on the third edition scoring and associated risk.

NEHRP Recommended Seismic Provisions for New Buildings and Other Structures 2015.  The 2015 NEHRP Provisions marks the ninth edition of this technical resource document since its first publication in 1985.  FEMA is proud to sponsor this cycle of the NEHRP Provisions update, and to publish the new edition for use by national codes and standards organizations and the general public.  The 2015 NEHRP Provisions are a new knowledge-based resource document intended to translate research results into engineering design practice. The new changes in the 2015 NEHRP Provisions have incorporated extensive results and findings from recent research projects, problem-focused studies, and post-earthquake investigation reports conducted by various professional organizations, research institutes, universities, material industries, and the NEHRP agencies. Similar to the previous ediCover photo for the document: NEHRP Recommended Seismic Provisions for New Buildings and Other Structures. 2015 Editiontion, the 2015 NEHRP Provisions have adopted by reference the American Structural Engineers Association (ASCE) / Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) standard ASCE/SEI 7-10: Minimum Design Loads for New Buildings and Other Structures as the baseline.

Order the new Provisions for free by calling the FEMA publication warehouse number 1-800-480-2520. For more information and to download the two volume NEHRP Recommended Seismic Provisions for New Buildings and Other Structures 2015 Edition please visit:

FEMA and the Dept of Transportation Pipeline Hazard Materials and Safety Administration Release New Guidance Document.  January 27, 2015.  FEMA, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Pipeline Hazard Materials and Safety Administration (PHMSA), released the new guidance document, “Hazard Mitigation Planning: Practices for Land Use Planning and Development near Pipelines.” It outlines best practices for communities to reduce risks from pipeline incidents, including those caused by natural hazards. It was prepared by PHMSA’s Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance (PIPA) Communications Team and is sponsored by PHMSA in coordination with FEMA as a primer for incorporating pipeline hazards into hazard mitigation plans.

The guidance aims to provide emergency managers, planners, and others involved with developing hazard mitigation plans with the knowledge and understanding of: how pipelines operate, the common products that may be transported through transmission pipelines, the potential impacts (risks) of pipeline incidents, and mitigation strategies they can implement to reduce these risks.  FEMA, DOT and the PIPA team work closely together to share program requirements and guidance, and discuss opportunities for collaboration. PIPA team contributors include state, federal and local government officials, as well as representatives from the pipeline industry and the general public. To view the new guidance document and for additional information and resources to support states, tribes and local communities in developing hazard mitigation plans to build and maintain capabilities to reduce risks from all hazards visit


USGS Fact Sheet  – USGS Emergency Response Resources

The USGS Emergency Response Resources Fact Sheet is available.   This is a quick reference guide to USGS response resources including:

  • real-time information for flooding, earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes
  • flood and hurricane databases
  • geospatial data and services supporting emergency response
  • USGS offices supporting emergency response

Link to the fact sheet USGS Emergency Response Resources.





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