Jerry Stanford


Written Memory


June 17, 2010


At the time of the flood I was working at the Dept. of Social Services in Aberdeen as a Case Worker. I got a call early that morning that I was to pack a bag, grab a state care and head to Rapid City as they had suffered a major disaster in the form, of a flash flood. Within a matter of minutes I had dressed, packed a bag, gathered other employees and headed to Rapid City.
Things were happening so fast that I had little time to absorb the magnitude of the disaster, but as we drove in the wee hours of morning it became apparent that it was a major event. As we approached the outskirts of the city, highway patrol cars blocked the interstate screening traffic into the city. Cleared by security we continued our journey and as we approached we could see smoke rising from afar. The closer we got the more vivid the disaster as cars were stacked atop each other and a gas station burned without any attempt to stop it. As we weaved our way to the high school (our work station for the next week) we observed houses either missing from their foundations or partially destroyed. The flood waters would leave a house in untouched condition while a house next door was completely missing. Railroad tracks were bent as if ribbon candy a testament to the power of the raging waters. When we reached the high school our jobs were to administer food stamps to those affected by the flood waters. We worked closely with the red cross (god bless them) helping to distribute food stamps. After working a full day I was then assigned, at night, to the control center a large oval table filled with individuals manning phone calls from individuals across the country inquiring about missing loved ones. As the week progressed the calls lessened in numbers especially if a loved one was found either dead or alive Reports of missing continued to come in all week, but one particular incident stands out. About mid-week a mud covered woman came to the high school to get her food stamps. She had just been saved from a remote muddy ledge in the upper hills. Trapped for several days she was tired, coated with mud but coherent. Her good spirits were probably due to her being in shock as she asked if she could receive food stamps for her eight kids. Asked if she had them with her she calmly replied that they were still lost in the water and mud, but she was sure that they would be found. The horrors of that flash flood and what I observed those days, working staff, volunteers, the red cross, local officials, and other state employees will always remain with me, but so will the generosity that I witnessed from across the nation human reactions to a very difficult period of time.

June 17
Jerry Stanford Sioux Falls, South Dakota



“Jerry Stanford,” Flood of 1972, accessed December 4, 2023,