Walgreens closes for landslide danger

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 new Walgreens store on Broadway sits beneath an old cut on the hillside. Extensive earth removal and grading were done before the store was built last year. The slope is collapsing above the building.

With a potential landslide looming, the Walgreens store on Broadway has closed, and the Town of Jackson has issued an evacuation advisory for residents of Budge Drive.

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.

A crack runs through a driveway and home on Budge Drive.

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.

Crack in the ground on the hillside above Walgreens. The crack runs through a house on Budge Drive and forms an arc shape above the store.

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.


Posted under Environment, Politics, Town Government

28 Comments so far

  1. sheepeater April 9, 2014 2:23 pm

    Pill pushers be gone! If Western Medicine focused on preventing illness vs. profiting from managing chronic conditions, we wouldn’t have so many drug stores in this valley. Free the Weed and the need for pharmies would fall through the floor. PS, Walgreens sucks. Go to Stone Drug.

  2. JT April 9, 2014 3:51 pm

    Sheepeater, I suppose if a natural foods store had been built there the hill would be stable. Get real.

  3. Ames April 9, 2014 4:15 pm

    I haven’t really followed this whole construction process for Walgreens, but it seems like that wasn’t a great spot to build in the first place and that this was bound to happen. How did they get permission to build is such an obviously bad spot?

  4. sheepeater April 9, 2014 4:46 pm

    Hey JT. My comment wasn’t about the stability of the hill, but about the flaws in the profit-driven pharmaceutical/medical system that causes more American bankruptcies than any other factor. If you’re objective is to keep things real, you might want to actually read people’s comments and actually counter them vs pretending to do so. Have a great day.

  5. joe April 9, 2014 5:11 pm

    Didn’t this start last October even before the final inspection?

  6. Jim Stanford April 9, 2014 7:29 pm

    Right now the main issue is public safety.

    The incident command team, led by Fire Chief Willy Watsabaugh and Police Lt. Cole Nethercott, has issued an evacuation order for residents of Budge Drive. One of the key concerns has been access to the homes for emergency responders should a major landslide occur. With no access other than Budge Drive, emergency responders would have a difficult time reaching residents trapped or in distress, should a catastrophe occur.

    There appears to be enough concern about deep instability to warrant evacuating residents for their own safety. Further monitoring may provide a better assessment and allow a downgrade of the order, according to Roxanne Robinson, incident command spokeswoman.

  7. Dierti Paul Etichs April 9, 2014 7:38 pm

    Next thang ya know, there’ll be a bankrupt Pine Glades, an ice dammed Flat Crk, a light-pollution-resistant telescope in Moose, an elk feedground, dump trucks hauling snow all winter due to lack of snow storage, “smart growth,” and a non-profit to save the Uinta Ground Squirrels.

  8. joe mama April 9, 2014 9:36 pm

    which engineers ok’d this project? name names here please? any elected officials on planning and zoning give this the thumbs up? again, names please.

  9. Luke T April 9, 2014 10:11 pm

    Sheepeater, be glad you live in a town where there’s such a lack of major issues that you can complain about a new Drugstore haha #1stworldproblems am i right haha

  10. BC April 10, 2014 1:13 am

    I figured something could happen on that hillside. Does anyone remember looking at the broken shale that was exposed not only when they expanded and paved Budge Drive but more recently when the Walgreens construction was going on? I have always felt that ground was unstable. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see how volatile the hillside is. Now that the ground is very likely getting saturated with water from runoff from snow fields up on the Butte the ground is getting increasingly unstable.

    Joe Mama I totally agree with what you wrote. The people of Jackson need to know who ok’d this project and the names of the Town Council members who voted for it. They definitely should not be reelected. In far too many cases in Jackson, money talks and common sense intelligence walks. I’ll bet the lawyers are going to be busy with this one. Did we really need a Walgreens? Seriously. Stone Drug is the best.

    That hillside needs a tremendous amount of work. It’s a crime that this assessment was not done a long time ago. It may be too late.

  11. Rob W April 10, 2014 3:53 am

    It seems like it would be exhausting to be as f***ing cool as Sheepeater.

  12. Dickson April 10, 2014 7:24 am

    Geological engineers haven’t a clue. That’s proof. Can’t wait to see who the smart & dumb people were.

    As for Walgreens, they invested millions into the project – more money than Stone Drug will ever pump into this town – so you have to wonder who they will sue.

  13. Lew Hartswick April 10, 2014 7:41 am

    A LOT of people, not just those in Jackson, need to look up the term “Angle of repose” in a geologist text before they grant construction permits for sites at/near the base of a hill. :-)

  14. dr April 10, 2014 8:39 am

    Get the concern for emergency response on top if the road is closed, but that doesn’t apply at all to the Hillside building and all the businesses that are suffering real losses, as well as their employees.

    Just yet another example of developers having carte blanche at city hall.

  15. d April 10, 2014 8:40 am

    I feel sorry for the folks that are evacuating and closing their businesses. Hang in there. I agree with Chief Watsabaugh, the safety of the people, including the First Responders is #1. There but for the grace of God … I live in a known flood plain and at the base of an earthquake fault, not to mention wild fires. Nature rules here in the Hole, some decisions equate to rolling the dice. But I agree with BC, maybe that wasn’t such a good spot to build, especially the Walgreens site.

  16. Bennett April 10, 2014 10:25 am

    Making national news:

    People in Jackson, Wyo., Ordered to Evacuate Amid Landslide Threat


  17. Common Sense April 10, 2014 10:48 am

    The whole dam town is built on unstable ground— There have been structures there for decades at the site thats sliding. You have a weak dam holding jackson lake back— Why do finger pointers and whiners show up before even emergency response? Ya’ll belly ache about everything we’ve done in Wyoming— after moving here from the last place your ideas ruined. If y’all really had good hearts you’d be mobilizing to help those families effected— How about being a positive for a change and leave the whinny earth muffin home. Earth moves deal with it. Prayers for those effected– even the Walgreens that employs and houses human beings but has not yet developed a drug to cure whinny- finger pointing hypocrites from their selves- Sheep Eater would be a great monkey for the clinical trials-

  18. murph April 10, 2014 12:35 pm

    sat/sun weather could force an even bigger evac

  19. Pamela Carter April 10, 2014 1:24 pm

    The question might be who approved the plan to allow the extensive grading that created the pad for the Walgreens development. Who was the geotechnical engineer and how much Errors and Omissions insurance do they have? Those poor homeowners.

  20. a fan April 10, 2014 1:36 pm

    Keep Pepi on the uphill side of that crack!

  21. joe April 10, 2014 3:01 pm

    where was the several inches of movement, 40 ft. below the surface
    location? how was it measured? Do they know how deep the slide might be or is that as deep as they can measure? everyone be careful.

  22. Tater April 10, 2014 4:09 pm

    Lew, ya hit the nail on the head. After they scraped that site farther back into the hill a few years ago. It was pretty obvious that the angle of the resulting slope is not stable (i.e. greater than the angle o repose).
    Ray, JT, Luke, Common Sense…good job hating on the sheepeater. I’m sure your hate/animosity will totally help stabilize that hill.

  23. Chad April 10, 2014 4:33 pm

    Has anyone conferred with Gov. Mead? Perhaps he can change the science standard relative to the theory of gravity so as to mitigate the danger.

  24. Planet JH April 10, 2014 4:42 pm

    Live broadcast tonight of the Emergency Public Meeting: http://planetjh.com/2014/04/10/7-p-m-live-broadcast-tonight-emergency-public-meeting/

  25. Sarah April 10, 2014 10:15 pm

    This is a horrible situation that hopefully won’t get worse, although it may seem inevitable. But I can guarantee you that no one involved–the engineers, the contractor, the subcontractors, the town, the county, the homeowners–wanted or expected this to happen. We live in a town with an especially volatile environment. Look at the avalanche that hit the Bridger Restaurant at the top of the Gondola at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in 2008. We hope engineers can foresee these things, but that’s not always the case. It remains to be seen what happens and what other damage occurs.
    I hope the people whose homes are on Budge and the businesses are cleared to open and go back to their homes soon. If not, it’s almost impossible to play the blame game. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of homes and businesses built on buttes in Jackson. We are always at nature’s mercy, despite our best intentions.

  26. info April 10, 2014 10:24 pm

    When there is a vertical cliff rising from the edge of the parking lot of Walgreens going straight up, it is inevitable that gravity will take over at some point. And for those of you who have not lived here for very long, the butte used to go all the way to Broadway. There once was a lage bit of dirt, that was hauled out of where the hillside complex and Walgreens now stand. The hillside complex is now basically a retaining wall and last time I looked up there was a whole lot of hillside above there. When you remove the dirt that is the foundation to a butte one would think that might be a problem at some point. The clue is in the name: “Hill”-“side” complex. ..and one more note: If you live in Teton county you live in the mountains, you also live on many earthquake fault lines, you live in or near a flood zone, there is the potential for wildfire to destroy everything you own, you live on the edge of a super volcano, and for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

  27. Brad April 11, 2014 8:04 pm

    Common Sense @17 — Word. Amazing how all the 20-20 hindsighters come out when something like this happens.

    There is a lot more to come out about the makeup of the hillside and how more recent building sites were, or were not, properly analyzed, especially at the bottom. Jim, part of an inquiry by the town should be interviews with some of the old-timers who built the early homes up above.

  28. To Joe Mama April 14, 2014 1:46 pm

    To Joe Mama, pretty sure these are the engineers who worked on the project.

    Engineering Firm: Jorgensen Associates

    Geotechnical Engineer: Ray Womack, Womack and Associates

    Very anxious to hear what the council’s response will be this afternoon. After hearing the press conference earlier today, it sounds like the town may likely take responsibility for these engineer’s errors in judgement/calculations/design/etc.

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