best media exaggerations of landslide

By Jim Stanford on April 21, 2014

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Always dependable news source.

Despite daily press releases and even a live web cam for citizens to monitor the Walgreens landslide, the national media still managed to distort the situation into an earth-munching catastrophe.

Once photos of the Budge house split in two began being published, headline writers shifted into high gear. Comic banners that could have been lifted from a Daily Show sketch sounded the alarm that Jackson was in danger of being swallowed up by the slide.

Relax, Aunt Alice from Minnesota. We’re not all falling into a sinkhole.

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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.

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time-lapse video of Walgreens landslide

By Jim Stanford on April 18, 2014

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Update 3:15 p.m.: A crack has appeared in the wall of the Sidewinders parking deck, and three of the supporting beams are leaning at a crooked angle. The buckling of the Walgreens parking lot measures 8 feet high in places, and the Budge house above the cliff has broken in half.

After a week of slow movement by a landslide on East Gros Ventre Butte, the hillside above Walgreens began crumbling yesterday, creating a spectacle that drew hundreds of onlookers along West Broadway.

The slide sent near-continuous streams of dirt and rocks into the Walgreens parking lot, halting work on a restraining buttress. Movement of 3 feet was measured in the easternmost crack.

The Town of Jackson has set up a camera for live video streaming, from which this time lapse was made. (The live cam will not play on mobile devices.)

As of this morning, buttress work again stopped as the lower portion of Budge Drive has been lost. Town crews are working to salvage the technical equipment from the pump house that supplied water to homes and businesses in the area.

The slide accelerated yesterday, causing extreme buckling of the pavement and pushing the pump house into the Walgreens entrance sign. The lower parking lot of Sidewinders is buckling and undulating, too.

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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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