Thursday, June 05, 2008

Teton Flood Memories

I just read Berta's post on the Teton Flood.
It brought back many similar memories. Like her I was pregnant. I was 8 months along with Rachel. I also had a three year old named Andy. I was left homeless that day. I will never forget hearing on the radio that the Teton Dam had broken apart. The announcer kept saying "get out". Everyone get out of the way of the flood that was bearing down on the valley. We were in Ashton camping. We headed to the little grocery store to get emergency supplies as we knew we could not get home that night. The store was nearly empty by then. I then heard on the national news that a wave of water 15 feet deep was headed towards Rexburg. I had to find a phone so I could call my mom and tell her that I was OK. I knew they would be so worried. No cell phones in those days. We spent the night listening to the emergency broadcasts on the pick up radio. Announcements about contaminated water, fires, even snakes in the water. And the water continued on down the valley clear to the American Falls reservoir near Pocatello.
All the while I kept thinking we would be OK as our home was a half mile from the river. Ah silly me for thinking that.
When I got back to Rexburg there was nothing left. Including my home. We did however get some possessions out of it.
I remember to this day the stench of the "flood mud" I still go in old buildings and get a whiff of that unique mix of stuff that was mixed in it.
I remember the steady stream of people from Utah that came to help clean up the mud.
I remember sitting one Sunday at the Ricks College cafeteria eating dinner. The lady across the table cried the whole time. I did not have the energy to console her. I was about to have a baby and had nowhere to take it home.
I remember eating Red Cross sandwiches and thought they were terrible. Dry stale bologna sandwiches. And getting little hygiene kits, just like we make for Humanitarian services now.
I remember helicopters flying overhead all day long hauling cars and dead animals out of the river bottoms. Got so I did not even look up any more.
I remember the security getting into Rexburg. Armed guards on the highway stopped you and you had to show proof that you lived in Rexburg.
I remember the tangled mess of houses along the road heading out of town. Just tossed along the wayside. Cars were tangled up in trees.
What an experience. Every time I see the news about floods or tornado's or hurricanes I do remember what it was like. The smells, the fears, the horror, the sadness and finally the triumphs as you overcome the disaster. Thirty two years ago today.

6 comments:

Berta said...

Beautifully said . . . I couldn't have said it better! I've yet to write the COMPLETE story I have to tell - but, I do have to tell you, it would sound just like yours - almost to the "T"! Great job!

Cheers . . . a "fellow-flood-sister"

SUZAN said...

Great job explaining what you saw and how you felt! I know the smell of mud you are talking about. I was only 7 when we lost our home in the Farmington mudslide, but I can still smell that aweful smell and hear the crackling of the trees. I think of that day every time I hear the sirens of a fire engine. It's crazy how you can remember traumatic experiences so vividly after so many years. That must have been so hard for you at such a young age and 8 months pregnant! You've come a long ways since then! Thanks for sharing these memories!

rachel said...

#1 WHAT were you doing camping at 8 months pregnant??!

#2 i'm finally (at almost 32) starting to grasp what that experience was like for everyone. i've heard the stories my whole life and took for granted what it must have been like. wow. i can't imagine. that movie at the flood museum is fascinating if anyone hasn't seen it.

#3 thanks for piecing back together your life and offering me a fantastic existence. LOVE YOU!

barbchuck said...

I was on a business trip in Chicago when I heard of the flood. It took two days before I found out you were ok. That is an experience I never want to repeat.

Andy & Lynne said...

Wow, it is so intersting to hear the personal stories from that day. it made me want to cry reading how you were in the cafeteria but didn't have the energy to console that lady since you yourself were exhausted being so pregnant and i'm sure, tyring to keep a hyper 3 yr old boy entertained and under control and no home to go to. (maybe i want to cry because i have kids right now to make me better appriciate the hell of the moment)

Beth said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I remember the anxiety we all felt wondering if you guys were OK. I remember our drive to pick up you and Andy. we were detoured off the highway at Blackfoot and then crossing a bridge that the guards were standing by ready to shut it down cuz the water was right up to it. We then went through the same experiences on Memorial Day of 1983. The people of Rexburg and especially YOU were so amazing with the help offered and the true compassion because you had been through it too. Those experiences helped to mold us into the people we are today.