council to discuss landslide response

By Jim Stanford on April 14, 2014

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Brad Watsabaugh shows where a crack has formed in the ground above Budge Drive during a tour of the area last week.

The Jackson Town Council has shuffled the agenda for today’s 3 p.m. workshop to consider the landslide above Walgreens on East Gros Ventre Butte.

An update on the landslide and the town’s response will be the first item discussed. The meeting will take place in Town Hall and be streamed live on the Internet.

Town manager Bob McLaurin plans to ask the council to authorize emergency spending up to $750,000. That figure has swelled from the $50,000 the council initially authorized Thursday.

There will be a press conference at 11 a.m., also streamed online, for authorities to explain the Budge Drive closure. It is expected that Budge Drive will be closed for the foreseeable future, and residents may access the low-risk area on foot after receiving permission from private property owners.

New cracks formed in the hillside above Walgreens and Budge Drive over the weekend, and existing cracks continue to widen or deepen. Pavement continues to buckle in the closed store’s parking lot.

One of the town’s chief concerns is protecting a water main running along the West Broadway bike path, which is still under construction. The slide has been moving beneath the Budge Drive pump house and is about 10 to 15 feet from the water line, McLaurin said.

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update on Gros Ventre Butte landslide

By Jim Stanford on April 10, 2014

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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.

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Walgreens closes for landslide danger

By Jim Stanford on April 9, 2014

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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.

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airport shuttle to continue through summer

By Jim Stanford on March 28, 2014

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Jackson Hole Airport is the only commercial airport inside a national park, and parking is limited. The shuttle costs $8 each way, compared to $10 per night for parking at the airport. To reserve a seat, call 307-733-3135.

Those on spring break or planning an off-season getaway will continue to have a cheap, easy way to get to and from Jackson Hole Airport.

The Ride2Fly shuttle has been extended through the spring and summer, serving every departing and incoming flight. The shuttle picks up and drops off at the town parking garage and costs $8 each way.

Since launching before Thanksgiving, the service has been a resounding success, with an average of more than 300 riders a month (total for both directions). The shuttle was particularly valuable over the holidays in December, when the airport ran out of parking.

With only two airlines serving Jackson Hole for April, the shuttle will pick up less frequently. But once the full flight schedule resumes in late May, shuttles will run accordingly. The off-season schedule follows after the jump.

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February snowfall just shy of record

By Jim Stanford on February 28, 2014

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Jess McMillan gets a faceful during this month’s near-record snowfall.

With 7 inches of new snow measured this morning in Rendezvous Bowl, February 2014 will go down as the second-snowiest February since record keeping began at the Jackson Hole Ski Area in 1975.

This month has seen 133 inches of snow fall in the Tetons, trailing only the infamous February 1986, when the Headwall slid to Teton Village and a ski patroller died during avalanche control work.

“This is a very close second to an unbelievable year, an unbelievable February,” Bridger-Teton avalanche forecaster Bob Comey says.

The precise amount of snowfall that fell in Rendezvous Bowl in February 1986 will never be known, as the upper mountain was closed for eight days because of avalanche danger. The 129 inches listed on the avalanche center’s website is an estimate, Comey says.

An additional inch of moisture fell in February 1986, and the mid-mountain study plot received 122 inches of snowfall, compared to this month’s 117.

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