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50 years later: Remembering the 1972 Black Hills Flood

From the A coverage collection: The flood that claimed 238 lives and changed Rapid City forever series
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Dense humidity, bulbous clouds and an eerie quiet were hints that something was coming June 9, 1972.

The sky turned green, then darkness swept over the Black Hills before a flash flood claimed 238 lives in the Rapid City area. An avalanche of debris-filled water swept into the canyon and throughout downtown. Cars were in trees, fish from the hatchery were strewn in the streets, the water wasn’t safe to drink, phone lines were down and red exes marked houses where dead bodies were found.

The community, National Guard and Red Cross came together to distribute water, search for missing persons and identify the dead. More than 3,000 people were injured, 720 homes were destroyed, and 1,400 dwellings and 200 commercial structures were damaged. By 5 a.m. June 10, Rapid Creek was within its banks once again.

Next week marks 50 years since the tragic night changed Rapid City forever. In that time, the city essentially banned housing from lining Rapid Creek, established the greenway, built and expanded the civic center, and now will commemorate the loss June 5-10.

A “Remembrance and Renewal” musical performance will start the week at the Journey Museum theater June 5.

Rapid City’s Parks and Recreation will host a memorial walk in Memorial Park and a memorial bike ride beginning at Founders Park June 8. The Journey Museum will host a flood remembrance blessing and a presentation, and formally open its flood exhibit that will run through October.

Numerous panel discussions are scheduled for June 9, as well as a dedication of a permanent 50-foot storyboard wall at The Monument and interview with former Rapid City Mayor Don Barnett, who was the 29-year-old mayor at the time of the flood.

Barnett will host a presentation June 10 at the Journey.

The Journal will publish the recollections from survivors and local leaders, a photo gallery and documentary throughout the week, along with coverage of city events through June 11. Previous stories, like an interview with Barnett on his book “Thorns and Roses,” a complete history of the flood, will reappear throughout the week as well.

Lives Lost

  • William Albers
  • William Dean Albright
  • Russell W. Alcott
  • Susan Carol Allen
  • James C. Atkins
  • Clara Atwater
  • Raymond Sebastian Back
  • James Howard Baldwin Sr.
  • Mary Blanche Balsley
  • Daisy E. Barber
  • Henry Andrew Bauch
  • Valerie Jean Bauch
  • Roland Eugene Baumberger
  • Henry Beberger
  • Elmer Leonard Bendert
  • Nellie Beatty Bishop
  • Wilbur G. Bishop
  • Patricia Marlene Blomile
  • Christel Blum Bostick
  • Matilda June Broderson
  • Albert Buchholz
  • Mary Helen Bucholz
  • Mary Collins Campbell
  • Cheryl McBride Caplinn
  • George Anthony Carter
  • Olive Pearl Chamberlain
  • Mary Frances Smoak Chase
  • Twyla Rae Chase
  • Joyce Christianson
  • Cecil LeRoy Coker
  • Flora Napier Allen Coker
  • Gertrude Coldwell
  • Rufus M. Coldwell
  • Rev. Francis John Collins (S.J.)
  • Myron Henry Corbin
  • Mary Bea Corner
  • Arla Estaline Corwin
  • Opal Estaline Corwin
  • Annette Rose Costello
  • Daniel Brent Crowder
  • Matthew Lloyd Crowder
  • Richard Brent Crowder
  • Lance Arnold Cummings
  • Tammara Dee Cummings
  • Durwin John Davidson
  • Agnes Detwiler
  • Erma Luella Dick
  • Lowell Henry Dieter
  • Patricia H. Dieter
  • Gwendolyn Rae Dietzel
  • Thomas Patrick Doherty
  • Joni Rodriguez Ducheneaux
  • Harold Peter Elliott
  • Ena Ellison
  • Gary M. Engelstad
  • Leilla J. Erickson
  • Orville J. Erickson
  • Robert Van Fairbank
  • Leon James Ferber
  • Noel Arthur Ferber
  • Sharon Lea Ferber
  • Margaret Fox
  • Raymond Fox
  • Alice Hazel Gall
  • Norvel Raymond Gall
  • Theophil Gall
  • Cathy Neal Gall
  • Lawrence Anthony Genovese
  • Martin Carl Genzler
  • Ruth Lonena Genzler
  • Jason Girton
  • Madeline Hazel Glover
  • Oliver Clarence Glover
  • Dale Clell Goodroad
  • Delores Grass
  • Mark Edward Greenlund
  • Antonie Hajek
  • Pearl Celeste Halff
  • Janice Elaine Hall
  • Ernest Edward Harris
  • Roger C. Harris
  • Edwin Barkley Harry
  • Doris M. Hausmann
  • Henry Hausmann
  • Donald E. Hausmann
  • Edward Everett Healey
  • Sheila Maria Heaton
  • Harry Victor Henricksen
  • John Fletcher Heraty
  • Beatrice Judd Hogan
  • Christopher John Hogan
  • Cloris M. Hollis
  • Wilfred Hopkins
  • Lois Ellene Jackson
  • Donald F. Johnson
  • Elmer Harold Johnson
  • Jamie Edward Johnson
  • William Marion Johnson
  • David Evan Jones
  • Walter Albert Juhnke
  • Grace Agnes Keiser
  • Leo Francis Kreber
  • Delores D. Larvie
  • Julia Ann Larvie
  • Noreen Agnes Laughlin
  • Anna Regina Natwick Lodnell
  • Edwin Francis Long
  • Edwin H. Long
  • Daniel Richard MacArthur
  • Jeffry Ralph Magner
  • Norma E. Magner
  • William Edgar Magner Sr.
  • Leonard Magnotto
  • Lucy Magnotto
  • Jonathon Ward Master
  • Stephen Ronald Masters
  • Timothy Wayne Master
  • Harry D. McPherson
  • Beatrice H. McPherson
  • Otis W. Matthew
  • G. William Medley
  • Annette Mare Melby
  • Arlin Kilroy Mesteth
  • Margaret Ann Miller
  • Burton Harris Millett
  • Ida Moore
  • Fred Harold Morrow
  • Michael James Mortensen
  • Richard Lee Mundell
  • Mary Melissa Napier
  • Gayle Lynn Nemeti
  • Michael T. Neofer
  • Hanna New
  • Cora A. Newsome
  • Billy Wayne Nobel
  • Arnold James Ozuna
  • Ronald Joseph Ozuna
  • Stanley Julian Ozuna
  • James Wesley Patrick
  • Rosa Kathryn Paulsen
  • Marvin Eugene Pepper
  • Audrey Jane Petersen
  • Drucilla Ruth Petersen
  • Estel Merl Petersen
  • Freeman Franklin Phillips
  • Beth Marie Phipps
  • Carlo Jo Phipps
  • Lonelle Rae Phipps
  • Forrest Edgar Picht
  • Mardell M. Picht
  • Christine Ruth Quick Bear
  • Dennis Wayne Quilt
  • Ronald R. Rathman
  • Brenda Lea Rawlins
  • Frances Arlene Rawlins
  • Lori Jean Rawlins
  • Julia Ann Rawlins
  • Edna E. Reaves
  • Judy Leann Ringenberg
  • Tammie Jeanette Ringenberg
  • Neva L. Rippe
  • Richard Gary Rippe
  • Mary A. Robbins
  • Laura A Robinson
  • Tina Robinson
  • Elmer Henry Rohrs
  • Bernnie Neil Roose
  • Glenn Alan Root
  • William H. Rough
  • Mable Eleanore Ruhe
  • Cheryl Ann Runestad
  • Ruthella G. Ruud
  • Bill Allen Sampsill
  • Marline Haveman Sampsill
  • Michael John Sampsill
  • Ralph Phillip Sampsill
  • Maxine S. Savely
  • Mable Alta Schullian
  • Edna (Alice) Murphy Schuster
  • Jacob Herman Schweigman
  • Lucy La Roche Schweigman
  • Lillian E. Scriver
  • Randy Lee Shacklett
  • Claudia Lease Simpson
  • Eldon LeRoy Smith
  • Billie Claire Smith
  • Paula Jean Smith
  • Carl Eugene Smith
  • Gerald Wayne Smith
  • Jane Francis Smith
  • Nella Ferne Smith
  • Vinton Parman Smith
  • Elaine F. Smolnikar
  • Wilfred Matthew Smolnikar
  • Louise May Sprague
  • Louis Star
  • Annette Star
  • Alberta Star
  • John J. Stroup
  • Geraldine K. Stuart
  • George Albert Sumners
  • Mary Louise Swanson
  • Roger Barner Tadlock
  • Henry W. Tank
  • Flora Ellen Taylor
  • William Edwin Taylor
  • Shannon Vale Taylor
  • William Allen Nelson Taylor Jr.
  • Richard M. Tell
  • Jean Margorie Thomas
  • John C. Thomas Sr.
  • John C. Thomas Jr.
  • Lisa Hixson Thompson
  • Paul Thompson
  • Blake Evans Thornton
  • James Edward Toutges
  • Brand Terry Towner
  • Jennifer Rose Traversie
  • Jeremy Paul Traversie
  • Margaret Lamont Turner
  • Nellie Two Bear
  • Helen Jean Vanderbeek
  • Mark Hollister Vanderbeek
  • Robert H. Vanderbeek
  • Francis Glenn VanLeuven
  • Portia Faye VanLeuven
  • Rosemary Vogt
  • Anna Vucurevich
  • Herbert Michael Weisz
  • Evelyn White Bull
  • Herbert Loren Whiting
  • Phyllis Arlene Whiting
  • Daniel Delano Wickard
  • Lisa Marie Winsel
  • Rachel Rae Winsel
  • Tracy Allen Winsel
  • Charles J. Young
  • Anton B. Zieglmeier

Rapid City Journal Photo Editor Matt Gade has produced a documentary, "The 1972 Black Hills Flood: 50 Years Later." The movie is available to view for free with no subscription required beginning Thursday morning. Subscribers get a sneak peek Wednesday night.

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