A large landslide failed catastrophically along steep, 90-m (300-ft) high bluffs overlooking the waters of Puget Sound at Tacoma, Washington, in April of 1949, three days after the region was struck by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake. The area of failure was investigated to estimate the static and seismic stability of the pre-earthquake slope and to identify factors that contributed to the failure. Results of static analyses suggest that the slope was marginally stable and that high ground-water conditions would have significantly reduced slope stability. The Newmark analysis of dynamic (seismic) slope stability was used to calculate predicted inertial displacements for the landslide for a range of possible material property and ground-water conditions. Comparison of predicted displacements with a reported displacement suggests that the ground motion could have initiated the large-scale failure. Results of the study provide a basis for discussion and comparison of similar bluffs in the Puget Sound region that may be susceptible to catastrophic, earthquake-induced slope failure.

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