By Jim Stanford on April 10, 2014
Update 6:30 p.m.: We received good news from George Machan, the landslide consultant. Based on a preliminary survey of the site and related data, he estimates the chance of a sudden, catastrophic failure at about 5 percent. Also, the area most at risk may be limited to Walgreens and the east portion of Budge Drive, he said. Wet weather may accelerate movement, he cautioned, and further monitoring is necessary.
Businesses in the Hillside Building will be allowed to reopen, except for Sidewinders. The evacuation order for Budge Drive will remain in effect.
There will be a community meeting at 7 p.m. tonight at Jackson Elementary School gym (next to the rec center) to give an overview of the East Gros Ventre Butte landslide.
George Machan, a landslide expert from Oregon, has been on the butte today and will give an assessment of the geology and slide risks.
The Jackson Town Council also will meet at 5 p.m. at Town Hall, mainly to authorize the emergency command team to expend funds and take appropriate response steps. The meeting should be streamed online.
The ground continues to move on the butte. Power lines were being stretched, and a 2-foot sinkhole opened near the bottom of Budge Drive. Lower Valley Energy was working to release tension on the lines.
There are propane tanks buried beside homes on Budge Drive and gas lines in the vicinity. Also of concern is a town water main fed by a 2-million-gallon storage tank on the butte. Emergency responders are planning for the worst should these utilities be affected.
The scale of this slide may be larger than previously thought. Survey markers have been placed higher on the butte, and crews are monitoring any movement. But there’s little that can be done to alleviate the danger, other than moving people out of harm’s way.
Commenters have been arguing over who’s to blame, but it’s becoming apparent that this predicament goes well beyond Walgreens and the homes on Budge Drive. For 100 years we, as a community, have been cutting away at the hill, building roads, extracting gravel and establishing homes and businesses in an area where perhaps nature never intended them to be.
I take solace in two things: Nobody has died or been injured, and we have emergency plans in place. Landslides generally don’t announce their arrival, and few communities have the luxury of planning in advance for such an emergency.