By Jim Stanford on April 9, 2014
Update 7 p.m.: The advisory has been upgraded to an evacuation order. All residents of Budge Drive and the Hillside Building are being asked to leave as a precaution. A geologist has detected several inches of movement since February about 40 feet below the surface of the ground, raising the possibility of a larger slide. More information follows after the jump.
The ground continues to move on East Gros Ventre Butte, and that movement has accelerated, said Roxanne Robinson, assistant town manager.
Walgreens closed voluntarily in the interest of safety, she said. An evacuation advisory is a cautionary move and not mandatory for residents. The last time one was issued was during the Little Horsethief Fire in 2012.
An arc-shaped crack has formed in the butte above Walgreens. The crack runs through a driveway and house owned by a member of the Budge family. The home has sustained tremendous damage in recent months as the ground has shifted beneath it.
At the bottom of the cut slope, that shifting has caused the Walgreens parking lot to buckle in places. The foot of Budge Drive also is buckling, just a few feet from Broadway.
Movement of earth farther up the hill, beyond the houses, also may be occurring. Geologists and engineers are monitoring the slope with town staff.
The Budge home affected by the slide has become the new Teton Mystery. A tour with a neighbor and relative this morning revealed cracks in the garage floor and interior walls, wooden planks in the kitchen floor pulling apart and cabinets that have fallen off the walls.
The slope is sliding a few inches per day in places. At the foot of Budge Drive, the ground moved enough Sunday that it shifted the town pump house and severed the water line running up the butte.
The town has closed the Sidewinders parking deck accessed by Budge Drive. Sidewinders remains open, with access from the west.
Town officials are evaluating mitigation alternatives and ways to stabilize the slope for the long term. Rich Ochs, Teton County emergency management coordinator, has been apprising state officials in case additional help is needed.
This is from a town press release at 6 p.m., before the advisory was upgraded:
Jackson, WY — The Town of Jackson issued an evacuation advisory to residents of Budge Drive in response to a slight buckling of a portion of the roadway as well as additional movement of portions of the hillside. Additionally, town crews worked to shut off and cap both water mains servicing the Budge Drive area today with water being provided through a temporary line on the roadway.
Earlier today, the Town of Jackson building official, Steve Haines, provided a Declaration of Unsafe Buildings and Notice to Vacate the Premises to Walgreens commercial space. The declaration indicated that they were to vacate as of noon Thursday, April 10, 2014. Gas service to Walgreens has been capped as a precautionary measure. Walgreens informed town officials that they intended to donate all perishable food items to the local food bank. Walgreens continues to fully cooperate with town officials.
Teton County Public Health officials, in consultation with Walgreens, are advising persons needing to obtain a prescription to call their doctor and ask that another prescription be called in to a pharmacy of their choice.
Unified co-commander Willy Watsabaugh said, “The reason we’re acting now is to ensure that we have a plan in place should events escalate.” Cole Nethercott, co-commander added, “Our highest priority is the safety of the residents in the area.”
On April 6, 2014, the hillside movement caused the town’s pump station at the northwest corner of Budge Drive and West Broadway Avenue to shift, which, in turn, caused a water main break. Town crews worked diligently over the past several days to successfully jackhammer through approximately 18 inches of concrete to repair that leak. Since that date Town officials have been working closely with engineers and geologists to provide continuous monitoring of the area affected with numerous data points on the hillside to monitor movement. The site continues to show movement in some areas but not others.
At this time, the areas of greatest concern that would be affected by a release of the hillside is the Walgreens commercial operation and the town’s water pump station.