Lurch in Wyoming Landslide Splits House

Other homes and businesses threatened by sudden earth movement and debris.

April 19, 2014— -- A sudden shift in a slow-moving landslide in Jackson, Wyo., has residents rattled and experts looking for answers.

The movement Friday created a fracture several feet deep in the ground beneath a house in the northwestern Wyoming town, splitting it in two.

Workers, who have been trying to stabilize the 100-foot-high hillside since early April, were forced to suspend their efforts. Several other homes and businesses were also threatened by the abrupt land movement.

Officials began to notice significant land changes on April 4. The ground was shifting an inch a day by April 9, and authorities were forced to evacuate 42 houses and apartments in the area.

On Friday the land shift had increased to a foot a day, with flutters of rocks and dirt falling steadily down the hill.

The lurch created ruptures in a road and a paved Walgreens parking lot at the foot of the hill and pushed a small town water pump building about 15 feet from where it formerly stood.

Landslide specialist George Machan said at a town meeting Friday that despite the damage already caused, it is unlikely the sudden movement will cause a landslide akin to the devastation wreaked by the Oso, Wash., landslide on March 22, which killed 39 people.

Machan said geologists were still examining the cause of the ground movement and that in the meantime it is likely the earth will continue to fall, creating an ongoing threat, especially to the four homes, two apartment buildings and four businesses in the high risk zone directly below the hill.

"Is it weeks? Is it longer? I really don't know," Machan said. "I think it's really unpredictable how long it might take. I don't expect it to end in a day."

The AP contributed to this report.