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From 1986 to late December 1995, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Weather Service operated a landslide warning system for debris flows triggered by intense rainstorms in the San Francisco Bay region. The Landslide Warning System tracked storm systems as they approached the region, determined actual rainfall with a network of radio-telemetered rain gauges, compared the rainfall to thresholds for initi-ation of debris flows, and issued the appropriate public advisories.

A series of intense rainstorms during January 1993 created hazards from landslid-ing and flooding over much of California. In the San Francisco Bay region, January rainfall was over 200% of normal, triggering debris flows on natural hillslopes and road cuts across Marin, San Mateo, Alameda, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz Counties. The warning system issued Flash Flood/Debris Flow Watches during the most intense storms on January 13 and 15,1993. Most debris flows in this area were small and widely scattered, so damage was largely limited to several blocked roadways in mountainous areas. Storm damage was much heavier in southern California, where rainfall amounts were over 350% of normal for January, triggering flash floods and many landslides. This damage prompted inquiries about developing a landslide warning system for southern California.

A number of elements for a landslide warning system already exist in southern Cal-ifornia, including quantitative rainfall forecasting and a network of radio-telemetered rain gauges. Regional rainfall thresholds for debris flow initiation, consistent with the climate, topography, and geology of the region, remain to be developed. Such thresholds could probably be developed with a modest investment of research effort and resources.

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