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Black Hills Area Floods - 1941 to 1950

Moderate to severe flooding occurred in Hot Springs along the Fall River in 1941 with a peak flow of 4,700 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) and again in 1947 with a peak flow of 8,300 ft3/s.  Minor flooding also occurred in 1944 in Hot Springs. These were the last substantial floods prior to construction of two flood-control reservoirs within the Fall River Basin.

Substantial flooding occurred in May 1946 in various streams in the northern Black Hills, which resulted from prolonged, heavy precipitation.  Flooding occurred along Bear Butte Creek, and a May 31 article in the Lead Call reported that Spearfish Creek was as high as it had been during the flood of 1933 when the railroad bed in Spearfish Canyon was washed out.  A peak flow of 9,800 ft3/s was recorded on May 24, 1946, at station 06437500 along Bear Butte Creek about 15 miles northeast of Sturgis. A monthly precipitation total of 18.61 inches was recorded in Deadwood for May 1946, with very large monthly totals for other precipitation stations in the northern Black Hills.


Minor flooding occurred on July 12, 1944, when 2.34 inches of rain fell in Hot Springs in about an hour. Photograph courtesy of Fall River County Historical Society (used with permission).
Minor flooding occurred on July 12, 1944, when 2.34 inches of rain fell in Hot Springs, SD, in about an hour. Photograph courtesy of Fall River County Historical Society (used with permission).
A flash flood occurred along the Fall River in Hot Springs on July 20, 1947. Photograph courtesy of Fall River County Historical Society (used with permission).
A flash flood occurred along the Fall River in Hot Springs, SD, on July 20, 1947. Photograph courtesy of Fall River County Historical Society (used with permission).
The 1947 flood along the Fall River caused severe damage in Hot Springs. Photograph courtesy of Fall River County Historical Society (used with permission).
The 1947 flood along the Fall River caused severe damage in Hot Springs, SD. Photograph courtesy of Fall River County Historical Society (used with permission).

flood iconPhoto gallery of floods in the Hot Springs area during 1941-1950



[All locations in South Dakota unless otherwise specified. Relative magnitude of event: 1, extreme; 2, severe; 3, moderate; 4, minor; 5, very minor; ft3/s, cubic feet per second. USGS, U.S. Geological Survey; --, not applicable]

Date of storm Date of flood Relative magnitude of event Primary stream Secondary stream(s) Primary town or area Description of event Source of information
1 2 3 4 5
July 1941 July 1941 -- -- -- X X Dry Creek Various Sturgis Some rail and highway damage from heavy rains and high water reported throughout widespread area. Valley Irrigator (June 12, 1941). Page 1; page 2.
July 1941 July 1941 -- -- -- -- X -- Crow Creek -- Area streams were high from widespread, prolonged precipitation. Valley Irrigator (June 19, 1941). Page 1; page 2.
Aug.1941 Aug. 6, 1941 -- -- X X -- Fall River -- Hot Springs Peak flow of 4,700 ft3/s occurred on August 6, 1941, at station 06402000 (Fall River at Hot Springs). U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
1943 June 13, 1943 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Peak flow of 936 ft3/s reported for Rapid Creek for June 13, 1943. Miller (1986)
July 12, 1944 July 12, 1944 -- -- -- -- X Fall River -- Hot Springs Article reported 2.34 inches of rain fell on July 12, 1944, in Hot Springs in an hour. Hot Springs Weekly Star (July 20, 1944).
Apr.–May 1946 May 1–2, 1946 -- -- -- X X Bear Butte Creek -- Sturgis Nearly 7 inches of rain reported for past 2 days at Deadwood.  Several homes along Bear Butte Creek were moved because of flood threat. Rapid City Journal (May 2, 1946).
Apr.–May 1946 May 1–2, 1946 -- -- -- X X Whitewood Creek Bear Butte Creek Deadwood Street damage reported for Deadwood.  Additional damage along Bear Butte Creek reported. Rapid City Journal (May 3, 1946).
Apr.–May 1946 May 1–2, 1946 -- -- -- X X Bear Butte Creek -- Sturgis Congressional committee ordered review by army engineers of possible flood improvements along Bear Butte Creek; instigated by  flooding of recent days. Rapid City Journal (May 4, 1946).
-- May 24, 1946 -- -- X X X Bear Butte Creek -- -- Peak flow of 9,800 ft3/s occurred on May 24, 1946, at station 06437500 (Bear Butte Creek near Sturgis). U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
May 1946 May 1946 -- -- X -- -- Spearfish Creek -- Spearfish May rainfall at Lead (?) broke 41-year record.  Spearfish Creek reported to be as high as during flood of 1933, when rail bed in Spearfish Canyon was washed out. Lead Call (May 31, 1946).
May 1946 May 1946 -- -- -- X X Spearfish Creek -- Spearfish Damage in Spearfish area reported to be most severe since early 1930s.  Army engineers arrived to investigate flood damages. Queen City Mail (May 4, 1946).
May 1946 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Lead, Deadwood Precipitation totals for May 1946 of 18.61 inches for Deadwood and 15.31 inches for Lead provided. Indicates that very wet conditions existed in May 1946 for this area. Driscoll and others (2000). 
-- July 18, 1946 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Peak flow of 1,000 ft3/s reported for Rapid Creek for July 18, 1946. Miller (1986)
-- 1946 -- -- -- -- -- Redwater River and Hay Creek -- -- Article listed major flood years for Redwater River as 1906, 1922, 1935, 1941, and 1946; and for Hay Creek as 1923, 1926, 1930, 1937, and 1940. Rapid City Journal (Oct. 22, 1946). Page 1; page 2.
June 20, 1947 June 20, 1947 -- X X -- -- Fall River -- Hot Springs Fall River reported as highest since 1938. Edgemont Tribune (June 25, 1947).
June 20, 1947 June 20, 1947 -- X X -- -- Fall River -- -- Peak flow of 8,300 ft3/s occurred on June 20, 1947, at station 06402000 (Fall River at Hot Springs).  This was the last large peak flow prior to the construction of two flood-control reservoirs within Fall River Basin. U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
June 17, 1947 June 17–18, 1947 -- X X -- -- Fall River -- Hot Springs Flooding along Fall River caused substantial damage in Hot Springs. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008)
June 20, 1947 June 20, 1947 -- X X -- -- Fall River -- Spearfish Flash flood occurred in Hot Springs.  Wet conditions existed near Deadwood and Spearfish. Queen City Mail (June 26, 1947).
-- June 24, 1947 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Peak flow of 1,170 ft3/s reported for Rapid Creek for June 24, 1947. Miller (1986)
Aug. 15, 1949 Aug. 15, 1949 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Flash flooding occurred along Rapid Creek. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008)
-- Aug. 15, 1949 -- -- -- -- X -- -- Rapid City Heavy rain reported in western part of Rapid City. Miller (1986)

 


References

Driscoll, D.G., Hamade, G.R., and Kenner, S.J., 2000, Summary of precipitation data for the Black Hills area of South Dakota, water years 1931–98: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 00–329, 151 p.

Miller, J.R., 1986, Rapid City climate: Rapid City, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Foundation, 66 p.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2008, The Rapid City flood of 1972—historic Black Hills floods, accessed December 12, 2008, at http://www.crh.noaa.gov/unr/?n=history.

U.S. Geological Survey, 2009, National Water Information System (NWISWeb)—Peak streamflow for South Dakota: U.S. Geological Survey database, http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/sd/nwis/peak.


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