1972 flood survivor Pat Beaudette remembers a night of terror

The late evening news on KEVN Black Hills Fox Sunday
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 10:09 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Pat Beaudette was born and raised in Rapid City, South Dakota. He lived through the 1972 flood. He and his family lived in the first residential neighborhood below Canyon Lake Dam.

On June 9, 192, 18 year old Pat was home from college.

“And on that night my brother and sister who were twins were at the house along with a friend of theirs, Jamie Johnson.”

It had been raining hard all day. By evening, water was coming into Pat’s basement bedroom. He walked outside and discovered that the ditches adjacent to Jackson Blvd were also filled with water.

“My father looks at me and says we gotta get outta here, he says we’re getting in the car he says we’re leaving.

The Beaudette family along with family friend 14-year old Jamie Johnson all piled into the car. There was now a foot of water surrounding the house.

“And as soon as we backed out of the driveway, I mean as soon as we backed out of the driveway, about a three or four foot of water hit the car.”

By now, it was dark outside and the only light came from the lightning.

“And the water hit that car and spun us around like a cork. We crashed through the neighbor’s fence, took the fence out and smashed into a hydrant.”

The water continued to get higher and higher and higher.

“We saw other cars floating right next to us going by and you’d see the headlights of the vehicles and you’d see the headlights of the vehicles submerged and then you’d see the headlights come out.”

“At that point I was able to grab my little sister and get her out at this point the torrent was so high it was waist deep you could hardly stand up.”

“I grabbed my sister carrying her, we were right next to a house and I was able to get her and myself into this house.”

Pat’s 14-year old brother and his friend Jamie Johnson were also able to wade through the extremely cold water and enter the same house on Franklin Street.

“As we got into the house the water kept rising and it would rise and fall.”

About two dozen people had also washed into the house on Franklin Street.

“We were standing on the sofa, we were standing on the counters, we were standing on the washing machines and the water would raise up and raise down as the current increased and it swirled inside the house.”

The water would rise as high as the ceiling and the occupants struggled to breathe.

“So we were in a terrible situation. And then you would hear the thunder and lightning and the screaming, the screaming was non-stop.”

When the lightning flashed, Pat could see what was happening outside.

“And you would see a house floating by on the street, and you were in this ice cold water trying to keep your head above water.”

Pat’s brother, sister and Jamie Johnson along with several other people huddled together standing on the kitchen counter. Pat was standing on a washing machine in the laundry room.

“The sound and the power of it was just incredible and you could hear wood ripping and glass breaking. And all of the sudden the water came way up and at that point all the glass in the house just exploded.”

When the windows shattered, the front wall of the house also collapsed.

“All the occupants including my brother, my sister and Jamie Johnson who were standing on that kitchen counter were sucked out of the house.”

Pat remained standing on the washing machine. He managed to pull the owner of the home, Mr. Morrow, on top of the washing machine as well. Mr. Morrow was not in good health.

“And finally the structure above collapsed and started pushing us down and at that point I had to let him go I mean I let him go and that’s the last I saw of him and he perished that night.”

Pat assumed he was going to drown that night. But as the house came apart around him, a hole opened up in the roof above him.

“And I was able to climb up and out of that little area with the lightning flashes and got on top of what was left of that roof and what was left of the house.”

“It was difficult to see, you were freezing, you didn’t know what to do, you’d hear the screaming of people that were floating by.”

“In the first house that we got washed into, there was 20 some people in that house, I think 8 of us lived.

14-year old Jamie Johnson did not survive the flood. His body was found nearly a mile away from where he was pulled into the raging water.

“It was very difficult for our family with the loss of Jamie. And it scarred my father”

“I want people to know that there were a lot of heroes.”

“My father I don’t know how many people I saw him pull out of the water. He was able to save a lot of people and there were a lot of people he couldn’t save.

Pat Beaudette retired and came back to live in Rapid City. Where Pat’s old home sat is now part of Meadowbrook golf course.

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