Wyoming Landslide

Wyoming Landslide: Search for Answers Continues As Slide Creeps Down Hillside

By: By Eric Zerkel
Published: April 21, 2014

Jackson, Wyo. officials are working to construct an emergency path to access an area cut off by a slow moving landslide. For 17 days the landslide has gradually shifted the side of East Gros Ventre Butte, but over a two day span last week the hillside shifted quicker than usual, moving an estimated 4 to 10 feet in places.

The quick movement split a home in two, broke a sewer line and cut off access to the crews working to contain and monitor the slide, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide. Crews began work on the access road—which won’t be open to the public—Sunday using barriers originally meant to contain the slide.

Geologists plan to use the route to ship in drilling equipment to tunnel up to 200 feet into the hillside to determine the geological composition of East Gross Ventre Butte and the exact location and depth of the slide.

“More Importantly, it will help identify long term solutions and what mitigation efforts will work best,” Jackson incident command spokeswoman Roxanne Robinson told the Associated Press.

The route could also provide access to a neighborhood beneath the slopes of the hill that is cut off by damage to Budge Drive caused by the landslide. Sixty residents of the neighborhood remained evacuated Monday.

Samples taken from the earth could go a long way toward determining exactly what is causing the hillside to shift. Construction efforts over the past few years are thought to have destabilized the hillside, reports the Associated Press.

But 12 days after evacuation orders were first issued for the neighborhood, frustrated resident Tim Sandlin doesn’t much care for placing blame.

“I don’t want to find blame,” Sandlin told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “I want to go home.”

Because of its more stable geology, the slope is unlikely to suddenly collapse like the March 22 landslide in Oso, Wash., that killed 39 people, experts said. More likely, large blocks of earth would tumble down piece by piece.

That fact didn’t seem to ease the minds of Jackson officials who continue to search for answers that might help combat the slowly shifting mass of earth.

“We don’t know what Mother Nature wants to do here. She’s shown us quite a bit,” Jackson Fire Chief Willy Watsabaugh told the Associated Press.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

A worker inspects damage to a house at the top of a slow-motion landslide in Jackson, Wyo., on Saturday, April 19, 2014.(AP Photo/Matthew Brown)