Linda Campbell Britton

Description

Written Memory

Date

June 16, 2010

Text

I have never tried to put my thoughts on paper; I hope not to jumble the story to bad. My husband and two small children lived in the Jackson Park area which is across the creek from the Catholic Church in the Chapel Hills area. We lived next to the Country Store to the south. We had left for Texas a week earlier and left our two small children with friends in North Rapid. We had made it back to Grand Island Nebraska when we started out the morning of June 10th. Turning on the radio, reports that Rapid City was devastated by flooding overnight started pouring out.. Most of the city was destroyed, the fish hatchery was gone, Canyon Lake was gone, hundreds dead or missing. We could not get through on the phone to see if the kids were okay. That is a parent’s worst nightmare, the unknown. I contacted my sister in Chicago, she sat for 6 hours hitting redial on the phone before she got through. It was about noon when we found out the kids were okay. We would drive and stop and call, drive and call some more. We did not know why it had flooded. The news reports did not say it rained and rained. We did not know if Pactola had given way or quite what had happened. When we got to Hot Springs we were stopped by the road block set up to keep the lookie loos out. By the time we got to Hermosa the damage was getting more and more evident. We arrived in Rapid City and learned of the deaths of Herb and Phyllis Whiting, members of our REACT group. They had been sent to West Rapid to watch and report water rising in Rapid Creek. Unfortunately, the water found them. We later started down Jackson Blvd to get to our house and were about there when a report came that a damn had burst further up the canyon. The report was not true, but we could not get to our property for another day.
The following day we were told that there was no way to get back to that area since the bridge was out and crossing on foot would not be allowed. We were directed to an old fire trail above Canyon Lake on the South side that led down into the Chapel Valley area near the Stavekirk church. At the top of the hill, Health Department Personnel were giving immunization before anyone could go into the area.
As we made our way down the hill, the devastation was unbelievable. Houses were gone, moved, upended, shattered; cars were thrown around like dominos. The Guest Ranch was pretty much intact, but the little cabins to the North were gone and other buildings were scattered around the area. The bridge was gone! The Lake was gone! When we reached our house, the smell and visual senses were assaulted. The house was still there! The basement was full of muck, debris, mud and water. The house behind us was off the foundation and many others were gone. All you could do was stand there and look in disbelief at what had happened. So many in the neighborhood bend us did not heed the warnings. It had never flooded there and so it wasn’t going to do it this time either. Upon talking to neighbors in the area, almost 20 people behind us had been killed in the flood.
According to the people in the area, Irving Rogerson deserves a lot of credit for going house to house and advising people to get out. Apparently he was quite emphatic about it. He is since deceased, but I hope someone at least said “thanks Irv”. There were several families that said they’d think about leaving after supper. They didn’t make it. Some of the older people were not capable of leaving; Paul Hobart rescued his grandparents with a long rope and a tree. What he did truly was admirable. There were many brave people that night which kept the death totals lower than they could have been. If you listened to any of the stories of the people that made it to the Catholic Church lot that night, you’d have nightmares, I did.

We gutted the house on the inside, remodeled and to the best of my knowledge, the house is still there. We had about 6” of mud inside the house. You could see a mark on the back of the house where the water had peaked. It was about 25 feet up from the creek bed and just about 6” under the kitchen windows. To this day I don’t know how we had that little water and mud in the house. We were fortunate. Our kids were okay, we had a place to live, and we weren’t there that night. We were truly blessed.

Collection

Citation

“Linda Campbell Britton,” Flood of 1972, accessed July 2, 2022, https://1972flood.omeka.net/items/show/565.