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Jackson's Slow-Moving Landslide Accelerates

Rebecca Huntington

A slow-moving landslide in Jackson has started accelerating, blocking off the area's only access road and undermining options for stabilization.

Crews stopped work Thursday on an emergency buttress designed to slow down the slide. Officials decided it was no longer safe to work beneath a cut slope that kept releasing gravel slides, and pulled workers off the job. The only access road to the hillside has become impassable.

The Town has hired landslide expert George Machan, who gave an update today.

"A couple of days ago the movement had increased to roughly four to six inches per day, and yesterday we had movements in the order of a foot, and that's throughout the slide," he said. 

The hope was that building a huge berm of fill material would create a counterbalance to the slide by creating pressure at the base, or toe of the slide. Although trucks can no longer deliver fill material, Machan said natural forces are building up the berm.

"As the rock material falls off that face, it's creating a toe that's adding some load more at the toe than at the top. That could be a fairly slow process, but that's what nature does," he said.

Already, the slide has destroyed a newly built town pumphouse, although crews salvaged what technical equipment they could. Lower Valley Energy has shut off gas to the western side of the hillside neighborhood as a safety precaution.

Frequent updates and a live video feed of the affected area are available online at the town's website, townofjackson.com.

A multi-media journalist, Rebecca Huntington is a regular contributor to Wyoming Public Radio. She has reported on a variety of topics ranging from the National Parks, wildlife, environment, health care, education and business. She recently co-wrote the one-hour, high-definition documentary, The Stagecoach Bar: An American Crossroads, which premiered in 2012. She also works at another hub for community interactions, the Teton County Library where she is a Communications and Digital Media Specialist. She reported for daily and weekly newspapers in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Wyoming for more than a decade before becoming a multi-media journalist. She completed a Ted Scripps Fellowship in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado in 2002. She has written and produced video news stories for the PBS series This American Land (thisamericanland.org) and for Assignment Earth, broadcast on Yahoo! News and NBC affiliates. In 2009, she traveled to Guatemala to produce a series of videos on sustainable agriculture, tourism and forestry and to Peru to report on the impacts of extractive industries on local communities.
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