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Rapid City officials announce events to commemorate 50th anniversary of 1972 flood

Published: May. 12, 2022 at 5:22 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - It’s a night that is forever carved into the history of Rapid City. Heavy rain ripped through the city and surrounding communities, resulting in a flood that claimed the lives of more than 200 people.

City officials are putting the finishing touches on plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary, which takes place in less than a month.

City Communications Coordinator Darrell Shoemaker says the flood changed so much of how the city operates, including public safety protocol.

“We’re better equipped with our emergency management tools than ever before, where people can, at a moments notice, know what’s happening,” Shoemaker said. “Whereas 50 years ago, you may have had sirens or a message on TV. But so many people would have missed those messages.”

One of the events planned to remember the tragedy takes place the morning of June 8th. It’s a walk through memorial park to remember the victims. The City’s Parks and Recreation Department is hosting that.

“It’ll start at the memorial park bandshell,” said Jeff Biegler, city Parks & Recreation Director. “They’ll be a short program followed by a walk around the park and finishing at the flood memorial where there will be a moment of silence for all the should that were lost during the flood.”

The Rapid City Library is gathering stories from those who lived through the flood. They’ve released a podcast with those stories.

“We’re gathering stories, but what we’re hearing from the community, is they want a big event to commemorate the 50th year,” said Sam Slocum with the library.

The Journey Museum has long been archiving the events of 1972, and museum Executive Director Troy Kilpatrick says they’re adding to their display for the 50th anniversary.

“We’re always remembering the 1972 flood and its experiences,” Kilpatrick said. “At the Journey, we will open an exhibit next Friday that commemorates the experience of the flood.”

Greta Chapman is a member of the Flood and Greenway Committee, and says it’s important that those born after 1972 learn, and understand the significance of that night.

“It became apparent that there was a real opportunity with this 50th anniversary to have space dedicated so that all generations and all visitors would know the history of the flood and the lives that were lost, and what came from that.”

An online mapping feature at rapidcityflood.com will focus on several important points along the floodway.

“What we’ve done is digitized all the homes that were lost during the flood and all the streets that are no longer there,” said Adam Weaver with the city’s GIS division. “Because the maps are interactive, when you’re walking through the park with the map, you can see that you’re standing in someone’s house that used to be there, or on a street that’s no longer there.”

Shoemaker says all the events to commemorate the flood will be free to the public.

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