Doug Glenn


Written Memory


October 31, 2011


Memory Added: October 31, 2011
Location of Memory: Ellsworth Airforce Base/Rapid City

While I had no direct involvement with the flood of Rapid City in June of 1972, I remember the worried look on my mom’s face through the morning of the 10th, as my dad wasn’t home from a fishing trip to Lake Pactola that had embarked on the evening of the 9th.

My dad was in the Air Force and we actually lived on Ellsworth AFB. He had been stationed there the summer before and he had orders to leave the following month. Since we only lived there one year most of my memories of Rapid City are sketchy at best.

What I remember about June 9th was that it was a sunshiny Friday for most of the day. My dad came home from work early preparing for a fishing trip that evening, something he had done with his friends from work for several Fridays before. He had taken me on occasion, and I begged him to take me that night, but he did not allow me to go that time.

I had been attending vacation bible school with a friend that week at a church in Rapid City and since I didn’t get to go fishing I went to VBS for the evening. I cannot recall the name of that church but I remember that it was on a hill with a balcony or porch overlooking part of the city. As services were over for the evening, I went out on the balcony and a heavy sprinkle had started so I thought great, we are going to have rain this weekend. I looked out over the landscape and I remember thinking how pretty the lights of the city looked in the darkness and the rain. It’s an image I remember vividly to this day, obviously not realizing at that moment that a terrible chain of events was about to unfold.

The trip home from the church was uneventful except that it was raining a little harder. Sometime Friday evening on the radio we heard about the flood and that Canyon Lake dam broke and that authorities were worried that Lake Pactola Dam would break. There wasn’t anything we could do at that point, so my mom told me it was time to go to bed.

It was gloomy, cloudy and raining when I awoke on Saturday morning. I got up and my dad still wasn’t home and my mom was up listening to the radio. It was obvious that she didn’t get much sleep. I asked if she knew where dad was, and she said that she didn’t know. We sat there listening to the news reports of what had happened and was relieved to hear that Pactola Dam was still standing. I remember conflicting reports of the number of dead and that authorities were asking the public for boats with more than 35 horsepower to help in rescue operations. I heard reports of several other cities flooding, including Box Elder where two of my classmates and friends lived.

The day wore on into the afternoon and at about 4 pm, my dad pulled up into the driveway. It is hard to explain the relief we felt. He was worn out from his night of adventure and it showed. He had stories of the events that he lived through but these days I just remember how he said that they kept going for higher ground. He was in his car following one of his friends in a pickup truck and there were places that were flooded that the pickup went through that my dad was afraid to follow in his car, but he did it anyway. At one point he could look out his window see down over one side of a hill, while water was coming at him from the other side and he knew if he kept moving he would not be swept over. He also said that one of the guys he was with managed to call his wife and she was supposed to relay the message to my mom, but that call never came.

I don’t know how he eventually made it home, I just know how lucky he was. That may not have been the case had I gone with him. I’m sure it took a lot of concentration on his part to survive and I would have been a big distraction.

He and his friends went fishing again the following Friday, and I got to go this time. We drove around Rapid City surveying the damage while he and his friends relived what had happened. I remember the trees, limbs and cars stacked up in places and houses wiped away. That was quite a lot for a 13 year old to take in.

As I said, we only lived there for one year, so by mid-July, we moved to Michigan. It wasn’t until years later when I found one of my friends on a popular high school reunion web site that I knew that she had made it through the flood. I still to this day have not heard about the other one.



“Doug Glenn,” Flood of 1972, accessed September 28, 2022,