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Radio tower collapses as butte shifts

Two local radio stations went off the air Wednesday evening when their broadcasting tower northeast of Dickinson collapsed after the ground beneath it shifted, said Jeff Glaser, Dickinson Clear Channel Radio business manager.

KCAD and KZRX will be back on the air when a temporary tower is in place, Glaser said.

"The shifting took place on an anchor that pulled the tower down," Glaser said. "I think it's more of a sink.

"There's cracks up there and it almost kind of looks like an earthquake."

The incident is believed to have been caused by saturated soil, Glaser said.

Parts of the tower landed on a nearby transmitter building, causing minor damage, he added. The tower isn't salvageable, since it broke into several parts on its way down, Glaser said.

"There's pieces all over the place," he said. "That thing is busted, bent, twisted, everything. It's gone."

No one was injured and Glaser is thankful it didn't happen earlier in the day when he and another employee of the station were up there.

The tower and building are the only structures in the immediate area, he added.

About a half-mile south of the tower that fell, a dozen other towers still stand on the next butte.

"I just visually took a look at them on our hill and there doesn't seem to a problem with ground shifting up here, but it's hard to tell if that stuff is below the surface," said Gary Kostelecky, former Stark County emergency manager. "The top is so full of rock and everything and such heavy foundations on it, so I don't think it's going to be an issue up there at this point."

A new communications tower is being erected amongst the others on the butte and Kostelecky is overseeing the project. He hopes the new communications tower is up by the end of June.

Officials have reported several landslides and other water-related incidents in southwest North Dakota in recent weeks.

"Our moisture is going fairly deep into the earth and what's happening is we have these different layers of different types of soils," said Dickinson City Building Official Mel Zent. "And in particular, like in the Badlands for example, we have what we call the clay liners. Once those get wet, or you get enough moisture in there, those things will start to slip. It's just like a bowl."

He is unaware of any damage caused to buildings in the area due to the slippage recently, but said there were issues in the early 1980s.

A clay liner in south Dickinson got wet and started to slip, Zent said.

"That clay liner happened to come up right in the middle of a basement and it actually heaved the house right up off of its foundation," he said. "That's an extreme example, but it did happen in Dickinson."

Landslides have closed portions of Highway 22, Highway 8 and the road leading up to Sentinel Butte Hill, officials say.

Another landslide has taken traffic near Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit down to one lane.

Bill Fahlsing, Stark County emergency manager, said other than a handful of residents who have reported water in their basements, he is unaware of any other moisture-related issues.