geologist to give overview of slide

By Jim Stanford on April 18, 2014

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These aerial photos show a comparison of the Walgreens site over time. The arc in the top photo is the landslide, not yet disturbed by quarrying and development. An irrigation ditch and cottonwoods used to run along the base of the butte.

There will be a press conference at 10 a.m. today at Town Hall to give an update on the landslide affecting Walgreens and Budge Drive. Immediately following, Peter Ward of the Geologists of Jackson Hole will give a presentation titled, “Options for Dealing with the Budge Landslide.” Ward will give an overview of the geology and human activities at the site from the 1950s to the present.

Both events will be streamed live and archived on the Town of Jackson website.

Ward’s talk is a must for anyone wishing to get a better understanding of how we got into this predicament, and looking to avoid another such collision between nature and development in the future.

The site was a quarry from the 1950s to the 1970s, during which time an enormous amount of rock and dirt was removed from the hillside, creating the scar we see today. Even recent grading, when the Walgreens lot was lowered by 8 feet, pales in comparison to the quarrying, Ward says. Also, when Broadway was expanded from two lanes to five in the early 1970s, crews removed the toe of an old landslide, visible in the photo above.

Ward presents an independent analysis. He worked for 27 years with the U.S. Geological Survey as a leader in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. He has briefed top levels of federal and state governments on geologic hazards. He has a doctorate from Columbia University and bachelor of arts from Dartmouth College. He is a board member of the Geologists of Jackson Hole, a nonprofit that promotes education and sharing of knowledge about the Earth.

Here is the evening press release from the town:

Jackson, WY — The sewer line to Budge Drive ruptured today, and town crews worked to cap off the line to avoid any health and safety concerns. Tomorrow crews will begin to construct a workaround to avoid disruption of sewer service to the Budge neighborhood. Because there are a few residents who have chosen to remain in the evacuation advisory area, sewer service is still important.

The partial work conducted yesterday on the emergency stabilization buttress allowed town crews to salvage more than a quarter-million dollars’ worth of water pump equipment today before the equipment was damaged by the destruction of the pumphouse. Additionally, Lower Valley Energy turned off electricity for about 10 minutes at 10:30 A.M. to all businesses on the north side of West Broadway down to and including the ‘Y’ intersection in order to construct a workaround for their power pole that is within the high risk slide area and has been moving from the landslide.

George Machan of Landslide Technologies noticed a formation in the landslide called a “graben,” and this formation is dropping down and pushing out the lower portion of the landslide. This is occurring on the western edge of the high risk area. Aerial photos provided by Tributary Environmental allowed this particular feature to be identified. The acceleration in the slide has been doubling since approximately April 1st with significant movement in the last 24 hours. Significant movement has occurred on the hillside with increased depth and width to all cracks delineating the slide. The eastern crack has dropped 10-15 feet down the mountain and is quite visible from the street. Additional continuous gravel slides are expected as well as calving of larger chunks in the high-risk area. The retaining wall behind Walgreens has been breached with gravel spilling over into that parking area.

The flow in the 12-inch water main has been reduced to half the original pressure for safety reasons until the workaround with the new hydrants and valves can be completed on Tuesday, April 22. Water will be shut off on Tuesday, April 22 to all businesses on the north side of West Broadway/Highway 89/Wyo 22 between and including Walgreens employee housing to the east and the Pony Express Motel and all businesses above the Pony Express Motel area to the west. Water will also be shut off on April 22 to Cutty’s, Old West Storage, and a portion of the Teton Gables Motel.

Cracks have appeared in the parking structure at Sidewinders and the second story support beams show stress.

Residents viewing the site from the south side of West Broadway are encouraged to be aware of vehicles as many drivers are not watching the road or pedestrians along the road.

Residents in the evacuation advisory area are reminded that they enter at their own risk. Evacuees and employees in need of continued services can contact the Community Resource Center at 739-4500. Anyone in need of immediate mental health services should call the Community Counseling Center at 733-2046.

Updates will be provided on a daily basis with significant and critical information provided via Nixle alerts as well. Subscribers can change settings for the types of Nixle messages they receive in account settings.


Posted under County Government, Economy, Environment, Politics, Town Government

7 Comments so far

  1. Bennett April 18, 2014 11:29 am

    Thanks, Jim, for keeping us all informed.

  2. sue April 18, 2014 9:43 pm

    Are there any resources set up to help those who are evacuated or potentially losing their homes? Are there things fellow community members can do to help out our neighbors?

  3. AL April 19, 2014 1:23 pm

    Ward’s talk was very informative. Too bad he wasn’t advising the town before things got out of hand.

    The Budge Slide has proved many things.

    1) We have too many cops in town. How many cops do you need watching a hillside and running around Sidewinders? Not that many.

    2) Cops on Broadway trying to nab traffic violations is just as safe as Broadway without cops trying to nab traffic violations.

    3) The Public Works department didn’t exactly plan for safety & redundancy if they are only now trying to prevent a 2 million gallon leak. It should have been as simple as turning a valve beforehand. Perhaps our town leaders spend too much time & money on the comprehensive plan, global warming, & cell phone users to pay attention the city’s basic needs. The list of missed clues about the dangers the hillside presented may have been ignored for decades because none had an incentive to care but the idea that 2 million gallons could be unleashed uncontrollably certainly should have been addressed a long time ago.

    4) The engineers make a good living fixing their own mistakes. Only the weatherman can screw up as badly and still have a job.

    5) All publicity is good publicity. I’ve seen more activity at Rocky Mountain Bank in the past two weeks than I’ve seen in the last 5 years combined.

    6) This could be our next tourist attraction.

    7) If you want to destroy a parking lot and get a hillside moving faster, build a buttress just to the side of those things.

    8) If you want to drive traffic to the Town of Jackson website – host a landslide.

    9) While we all have empathy for those who have lost jobs & homes, most people want the thing to come down with a bang. The sooner the better and before the tourist arrive.

    10) And lastly, mother nature will make fools of us all once again, and again.

  4. joe April 19, 2014 8:24 pm

    Town and utility employees are doing a truly great job.

  5. Peter April 20, 2014 9:20 am

    I sure hope the County paves Spring Gulch all the way to G&T sometime soon. Events like this show the value in alternative traffic routes.

    Maybe the town can safely bring down all that dirt or hold it back without disrupting Broadway but if I’d be planning for another summer nightmare on Broadway if heavy rains come and bring it down.

    Last year’s work on Broadway showed us that Snow King Ave simply can’t handle additional traffic – especially summer traffic.

    And thanks for the updates Jim.

  6. Mt Mark April 21, 2014 5:23 pm

    I hope that the upcoming Snow King development plan and Theme Park gets a more thorough impact review than the Walgreens parking lot did. Snow King is a lot higher & steeper — not an impact that anyone wants to see.

  7. joe April 22, 2014 12:59 pm

    Is Walgreens starting to tilt?

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