SANTA BARBARA – A pair of geologists warned that an earthquake could loosen a bluff over the seaside Rincon hamlet of La Conchita, triggering a landslide worse than the one in January that wiped out part of the town and killed 10 people. Geologists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, reported their findings this week at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Salt Lake City. They noted that a “megaslide” occurred between 20,000 and 30,000 years ago and sent tons of mud and rock into the Pacific Ocean. That is believed to have been one of the largest landslides in the United States, they said. Researchers Larry Gurrola and Ed Keller are concerned that another giant slide could be in the area’s future because a major fault bisects Rincon Mountain behind La Conchita. “That’s the thing that could really get this megaslide moving,” said Gurrola, referring to a possible earthquake. “And if this megaslide reactivates, it could move out a much farther distance, burying the town of La Conchita and Highway 101 under 40 or 50 feet of debris. It makes the threat to residents much greater than previously recognized.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week A powerful storm in January collapsed a cliff overlooking the beachfront town, destroying 12 homes, damaging 11 others and killing 10 people, including several children. A similar slide in 1995 destroyed nine homes, but no one was hurt that time. Gurrola and Keller men said the megaslide thousands of years ago broke up the rocks on the cliff, making La Conchita more vulnerable to smaller slides. The cliff also is soft shale, which turns into mud during periods of intense rainfall. The geologists created a computerized digital elevation map of the mountainside behind La Conchita that depicted the telltale semicircle of a giant landslide. The data showed that the rock on the slopes was broken into pieces. Their findings back a report released in February by the U.S. Geological Survey that a variety of landslide hazards threaten La Conchita. The report found historical records, dating back to 1865, showing that landslides are commonplace there and any of the remaining 150 homes probably are vulnerable to another slide. The western half of the 1995 slide poses the most immediate danger, geologists said. The eastern half collapsed in January. They don’t know if the cliff can be fixed to provide safe living for residents. “We just don’t want to see more people killed there, particularly children,” Keller said. “Now we know a lot more about what’s driving the whole thing.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!