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- GUEST OPINION: Playing Safe
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Landslide threat looms, emergency meeting tonight
JACKSON, WYO – The effort to stabilize movement on the hillside above West Broadway continues as geologists and town officials assess the likelihood of a landslide in the area above Walgreens.
A press release from the Town of Jackson reads:
The hillside continues to move and measurements are being taken continuously. Emergency officials continue to anticipate alternatives but at this time we are not able to determine if the slide will stop, whether it will continue to slide or whether the hillside will topple over. We anticipate having updated results from the geologists and engineers analysis late this afternoon or evening.
Jackson Hole Fire/EMS estimated that if the ground did slide, it has the potential to release 600,000 cubic yards of dirt, which is about 6,000 dump truck loads.
Cody Storms, who works at a carpentry business on Budge Dr, said he visited the site yesterday and today to view the large crack that is forming as a chunk of land separates from the hillside.
Storms estimated the width of the crack to be about 6-10 inches across and growing. “It grew about 3 inches in the 5 hours I was up there,” Storms said. “I threw a stick down it and it disappeared into the abyss.”
The threat of landslide led authorities to order a mandatory evacuation at 7:45pm last night. At least 48 people were evacuated from residential buildings in the area.
Jane Koas and John Friedrich were among those who were evacuated from their homes. Police knocked on their door last night and notified them of the order.
“The police told us, ‘if you do stay, we can’t come get you, if something does happen,” said Friedrich. “But they weren’t freaking out or anything. They seemed calm.”
They only had time to grab their computer and some clothes before heading to their temporarily lodging at Jackson Hole Lodge.
Koas and Friedrich live on the west end of the hillside, which they believe is located outside of the area of direct threat.
“We left because we live in a gas line trailer and we didn’t want to get cooked if the line broke,” said Friedrich. “Plus there’s a pool at our motel.”
Friedrich said his neighbor chose not to leave his rental property for unknown reasons. The Town of Jackson reported that there were 3 locations where people chose to stay in their homes rather than evacuating.
“Even though it was a mandatory evacuation order, we cannot force people to leave their homes,” said Roxanne DeVries Robinson, Incident Command Public Information Officer for the Town of Jackson.
Commercial businesses in the area, including Sidewinders, are also taking precautions.
Nick Olmstead, a bartender at Sidewinders Tavern said staff received an email notifying employees that the restaurant would be closed indefinitely.
“I have no idea what the end result of this is or what the solution is,” said Olmstead. “Hopefull they will have some kind of answer for us soon, so that staff can make decisions about what they need to do.”
The cause of the ground movement is not known, but there have been rumblings about whether the construction of the new Walgreens contributed to the instability of the area.
“It seems like there wasn’t any problem before they constructed the Walgreens and now there is. But I don’t know if that is just a coincidence,” said Olmsted.
Others, like resident, Erica Lingle, say that the crack is too far from the Walgreens to be affected by its construction.
A live broadcast of the a public meeting to discuss the situation will be streamed on planetjh.com tonight at 7pm. The meeting will be held at Jackson Elementary School. Emergency response officials will provide a community update on the situation and answer questions from the public.