Wyoming is the site of a slow-moving landslide within a town that continues to face threats from it. The earth is still moving and destroying homes and businesses. Efforts to stabilize certain areas had to be called off, due to safety concerns.
Movement was first noticed at the beginning of April. The landslide had been moving down a hillside in Jackson for a couple of weeks, when it began to pick up speed. On April 9, 42 homes and apartments in the area had to be evacuated.
On Friday, it caused a fracture in the ground under a house which split the house in two. The sudden movement also threatened other homes and businesses in the area. By the time the house was destroyed, the land was shifting a foot a day, with noticeable dirt and rocks moving down the hill. By Saturday morning, the landslide had caused a 10 foot bulge in a parking lot and road, at the foot of the hill. The swells in the ground also caused a water pump building to be pushed up 15 feet from where it was originally.
There are many possible causes for the event, authorities said. Landslides are not uncommon in Wyoming during a Rocky Mountain springtime because snow melts as the weather gets warmer. More water in the ground lubricates unstable soil and rocks. Previous construction at the site is another possible cause.
Now, according to landslide specialist George Machan, the ground is moving about an inch per day. Though there are thoughts about the cause, Machan said that the exact cause of the landslide is still being determined by geologists.
The small Wyoming town will continue to face more threats from the landslide because Machan isn’t sure how much longer it will go on, saying it is “unpredictable.” There are two apartment buildings, four homes, and four businesses that are in the “high risk zone” at the foot of the hill, Machan admitted.
Experts explain that the hillside in Jackson is not likely to collapse like the landslide in Oso, Washington, that happened in March. It is more likely that the earth would come down in pieces. In recent years, the area of the landslide in Wyoming has been graded for businesses and roads, which might have weakened the hillside. A resident of Jackson, Rick Johnson, lives close to the landslide area along the same hillside, and had noticed his retaining wall shifting in the past few years. He hadn’t thought about it much until the landslide began.
Geology professor at the University of Washington, David Montgomery, explained that landslides are frequent, and one of the deadliest natural disasters in the United States. They don’t just happen in Wyoming, but in every state in the United States, landslides kill between 25 and 50 people each year. He went on to say that more and more people are moving into environments, like mountain areas, where the risk for landslides increases with human interactions with the earth.
Although officials lifted the previous evacuation for approximately 30 residents living outside of the high-risk zone, the Wyoming town will continue facing more threats from the landslide for an unknown amount of time. These residents are still not allowed to drive on the street in their neighborhood, and instead, have to walk across private property.
By Twanna Harps