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This photo by Keith Johnson shows one of the 770 homes destroyed by the 1972 flood. Photo courtesy of the Rapid City Public Library.
This photo by Keith Johnson shows one of the 770 homes destroyed by the 1972 flood. Photo courtesy of the Rapid City Public Library.

Remembering the Flood

Jun 4, 2012

Unanswerable cries for help, narrow escapes and the raging, ice-cold waters of Rapid Creek sweeping away everything in its path — no one who lived in Rapid City in 1972 will ever forget the horrors of June 9, when 238 people lost their lives in South Dakota’s greatest natural tragedy. On the 40th anniversary of the flood, Rapid Citians are remembering the disaster with theater performances, a pow wow, art exhibits, photos and, most importantly, stories. We featured some of those stories in our May/June issue, but former Rapid City mayor Don Barnett had more to share in a recent interview with South Dakota Magazine publisher Bernie Hunhoff and Grant Peterson of Brookings Radio. Click below to hear their three-part conversation.


Grant and Don Barnett continued their conversation on May 22, 2012. Rapid Citians Dean Reichart and Larry Lytle joined in to share their memories of the flood. 


04:01 pm - Tue, June 5 2012
DRH said:
Excellent! Will you post the follow up interview?
08:12 pm - Thu, June 7 2012
Seattle-based photographer Jim Mueller was only 20 when he saw Rapid City get devastated by the force of nature. He still remembers photographing the area on June 10, 1972, just one day after Rapid Creek violently flooded and took the lives of over 200 individuals. Today, the 40 year old images were added to Jim's photography website and can now be used in remembering the historic loss suffered by many.

Just search the site for 'Rapid City Flood' to find the new gallery
06:00 am - Fri, June 8 2012
Laura said:
Thanks to Jim for sharing those, Kathryn. The Rapid City Public Library and Rapid City Journal are also collecting flood stories and photos - I hope you point this out to them as well.
12:46 pm - Fri, June 8 2012
Thank you Laura for pointing me in that direction. I'm always looking for ways to share our material. I will send them along to the Library. I hope this weekend is a good one in Rapid City. K
08:51 pm - Tue, September 25 2018
Linda A. Siedschlag said:
My dad was a police officer in Edgemont, SD when this happened and he and other officers went up and helped look for victims and survivors. He said it was awful and something he would never forget.
12:33 am - Wed, April 8 2020
Kathleen Vignolini said:
We were at home on Ellsworth AFB when the rains started on the 9th. My Mom was visiting and was leaving via the Airport the next day. We decided to go into the hills earlier, either to a man-made lake my husband loved to "fish" at, or visit a cave. The day was beautiful, sunny, blue sky, and warm. Later that night we heard the rain. The news came on about the storms in the hills. When we heard about the flood in Rapid City, we were worried about getting my Mom to the Airport. We had a VW Bug, but my husband was going to try to cross that creek, swelled or not. When he came back without Mom, I knew she'd gotten on the plane. He said the VW "just floated" across the creek, the road was gone. But by then the creek was lower. An Airman who worked with my husband rented one of the trailers near the creek. His wife was pregnant, and she had to get out through a window. They stayed with us for a short time, and lost just about everything they had. I still remember how that little park, the stone walled creek and lake looked when we next went to it. I couldn't believe the devastation I saw. And I wondered if a mother duck and her many baby chicks there made it or not.

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