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60 evacuated from homes in Jackson, Wyo., due to slow-moving landslide

Published: Saturday, April 12 2014 11:59 p.m. MDT

Displaced residents of Budge Drive in Jackson, Wyo. register with the American Red Cross on Thursday, April 10, 2014 as geologists study the hillside on East Gros Ventre Butte where the potential for a landslide called for an evacuation the night before.

Jackson Hole News and Guide, Price Chambers, Associated Press

JACKSON, Wyo. — The Red Cross prepared a shelter Saturday for people evacuated from their homes in the northwest Wyoming resort town of Jackson because of a slow-moving landslide.

About 60 people have been forced from their homes since Wednesday as a precaution and because of damage to the only access road.

The unstable hillside is about the size of two football fields and is along a main artery outside the historic downtown area. Officials say it continues to shift, making it unsafe for residents of mostly apartments to return home even though the apartments are outside the area where the highest risk of a collapse exists.

"The cracks continue to widen and deepen," Assistant Town Manager Roxanne Robinson said Saturday. "If it keeps sliding every day, other complications could arise."

Residents are allowed escorted access to their homes to check on them and pick up personal belongings, but no one is allowed to stay overnight, Robinson said.

The Red Cross has provided 18 displaced residents with hotel rooms until now. But the continuing uncertainty of when they can return home has led the agency to open a shelter, which will be ready Sunday evening.

No one can say right now when residents might be allowed back home, Robinson said.

Robinson said portable water tanks were being placed on the unstable hill in case a fire breaks out. The shifting hill has broken permanent water lines, and the temporary water lines that have been put in place don't provide sufficient pressure for firefighting, she said.

There are power lines on the hill that could be brought down by the slide and spark a fire.

"It's definitely dry on the hill, and we need to have a water supply that we can access in a hurry should it be necessary," said Mike Moyer, an official with the local incident command team.

At the foot of the slide zone, two restaurants, a liquor store and a just-built Walgreens remain closed amid a slim but persistent risk the hill could collapse suddenly.

A geologist put the risk of sudden collapse at just 5 percent. So far, only one unoccupied home has sustained any damage. The house is directly atop the slide zone.

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