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Shelter opens for Jackson evacuees

Apr 14, 2014 - The Associated Press

The unstable hillside is about the size of two football fields and is along a main artery outside the historic downtown area.

JACKSON -- 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 advisded to leave their homes since Wednesday as a precaution and be-cause of increasing 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 exits.

"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.

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.

Robinson said officials in Jack-son were aware a year ago that the hillside was shifting and had installed equipment to monitor the movement.

The movement increased and broke a water line last week. A crack appeared atop a steep slope overlooking the businesses below and the call to evacuate the 46 homes and apartment units on Budge Drive -- a quiet lane that snakes partway up the foot of East Gros Ventre Butte -- came Wednesday.

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