'People screaming for help as they floated by': Survivor recalls 1972 Black Hills flood
The attached audio above is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment.
The 50th commemoration of the 1972 Black Hills Flood is June 9th. It’s a time to honor the 238 lives lost, and it also brings a flood of memories for survivors. Every week between now and the anniversary, SDPB is sharing stories from those survivors, in their own words.
This week, we hear from Tom Haggerty. He was in bed at his family’s home near Rapid Creek when a flood surge rolled through Rapid City.
"My dad started yelling for me at like 1 o'clock in the morning, got me out of bed. And we lived on Lanark Road, which is about not a full block from where the main force of the water came through, and the water was hitting the front of our house. And there was so much pressure that it was raising our garage doors.
"So my dad had me come out and help him tie down the garage doors. When we opened the ground level door from the garage, about a foot and a half of water came falling into the house. Anyway, we closed up the garage doors.
"There was not any light. I mean, if you've been in a cave and you know what it's like when they turn off the lights, that's what it was like that night, except there was this huge sound of water rushing. And I mean, it was just like this roar.
"And we went out on our back porch since the water was going around both sides of our house. And it was probably a couple feet deep. And so, we were on our back porch and in our backyard is a pond. It's still there today. Well, the water was running straight back down behind our house.
"And it was very eerie because you could hear people screaming for help as they floated by. But I couldn't see you if you were next to me. I mean, it was so dark, you couldn't see anything past the length of your arm. Occasionally, there would be lightning strikes, but even that you couldn't see because the clouds were so thick.
"And anyway, I stood there with my dad and my neighbor, Fuzz Ewing, and talking about what could we do to help these people that we had heard screaming floating past, and we didn't have a rope. We couldn't see anything. It would've been suicide to try to go down and you'd never found the people anyway. So it was just a horrible situation."
An SDPB documentary, "Surviving the '72 Flood," is in production now and will air in June on SDPB-TV.