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Black Hills Area Floods - 1961 to 1970

Exceptional storms and flooding occurred along the northeastern flanks of Black Hills in 1962, following about a decade of extended and severe drought conditions (Driscoll and others, 2000).  Articles of May 23 and June 6, 1962, in the Sturgis Tribune described moderately high water in the Sturgis area following a week of prolonged rain, which was proclaimed to be the end of the drought. Severe flooding occurred during June 15–16 along the northeastern flank of the Black Hills (Rapid City to Sturgis to Whitewood), with the most severe flooding in the Sturgis area.  Rapid City subsequently suffered additional but less severe flooding from another storm the next day.  The worst flooding of 1962 along Rapid Creek occurred several weeks later (July 13) and resulted in a peak flow of 3,300 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) for station 06414000 in Rapid City.  This is the second largest peak flow for this station, but is dwarfed by the 1972 peak flow of 50,000 ft3/s.  An exceptional peak flow of 2,920 ft3/s was determined for July 13 for Cleghorn Canyon, which is a very small drainage (area = 7.0 square miles) in west Rapid City.  A June 23, 1962, article in the Sturgis Tribune described the aftermath of flooding that occurred on June 16–17, 1962, in the Sturgis area. The article also reported that 14 inches of rain during a 6-hour period on June 15 in Whitewood.  A peak of record flow of 12,700 ft3/s occurred on June 16, 1962, at station 06437500 along Bear Butte Creek about 15 miles northeast of Sturgis.  Another peak of record flow occurred on June 16 at station 06433000 (16,400 ft3/s, drainage area = 920 square miles) along the Redwater River upstream from Belle Fourche.  Another large peak flow (3,120 ft3/s) occurred on June 17, 1962, at station 06425500 along Elk Creek near Elm Springs; however, the peak flow for the year (7,040 ft3/s) occurred on May 29 and another very large peak flow of 6,320 ft3/s occurred on May 21.  

A large peak flow of 3,040 ft3/s occurred at station 06431500 along Spearfish Creek on June 9, 1964.  Flooding occurred on May 15, 1965, in Deadwood, Spearfish, and Sturgis from heavy rain falling on as much as 30 inches of snow.  A peak flow of 4,240 ft3/s occurred along Spearfish Creek at Spearfish (station 06431500), and farther downstream a peak flow of 8,480 ft3/s occurred along the Redwater River above Belle Fourche (station 06433000).  On May 15, a peak of record flow of 2,060 ft3/s was recorded for Rapid Creek above Pactola Reservoir (station 06410500).


Three cars were stacked up when a raging wall of water tore through Cleghorn Canyon on July 13, 1962. Photograph courtesty of the Rapid City Journal (used with permission)

Three cars were stacked up when a raging wall of water tore through Cleghorn Canyon on July 13, 1962. Photograph courtesty of the Rapid City Journal (used with permission).

Mobile homes were severely damaged in Rapid City by the July 13, 1962, flood. Photograph courtesty of the Rapid City Journal (used with permission)

Mobile homes were severely damaged in Rapid City by the July 13, 1962, flood. Photograph courtesty of the Rapid City Journal (used with permission).

The railroad tracks in Deadwood were damaged by flooding during May 14-15, 1965. Photograph courtesty of the City of Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission (copy and reuse restrictions apply)

The railroad tracks in Deadwood were damaged by flooding during May 14-15, 1965. Photograph courtesty of the City of Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission (copy and reuse restrictions apply).

Several houses in Deadwood were damaged during the May 1965 flood. Photograph courtesty of the City of Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission (copy and reuse restrictions apply)

Several houses in Deadwood were damaged during the May 1965 flood. Photograph courtesty of the City of Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission (copy and reuse restrictions apply).


flood iconPhoto gallery of floods in the Black Hills area during 1961-1970




[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
May 15–22, 1962 May 22, 1962 -- -- -- -- X Bear Butte Creek -- Sturgis Article reported 7.93 inches of rain in Sturgis between May 15 and May 22, 1962.  Bear Butte Creek was running high in Boulder Canyon. Sturgis Tribune. (May 23, 1962).
May 1962 May–June 1962 -- -- -- -- X Alkali Creek -- Sturgis Alkali Creek was running high following recent rains. Sturgis Tribune. (June 6, 1962).
June 15, 1962 June 15–16, 1962 -- X X -- -- Bear Butte Creek Deadman and Spring Creeks Sturgis Almost 4.5 inches of rain reported for June 15 in Sturgis.  Severe flooding reported with evacuations and destruction of homes, highways, and infrastructure. Black Hills Press. (June 16, 1962).
June 15, 1962 June 15–16, 1962 -- -- X X -- Rapid Creek Bear Butte Creek Rapid City Substantial storm damage and flooding reported from Rapid City to Sturgis to Whitewood.  Reported an unofficial 2-day rainfall total of 8.15 inches near Piedmont. Rapid City Journal. (June 16, 1962). Page 1; page 2.
June 16, 1962 June 16–17, 1962 -- -- X X X Rapid Creek Others Rapid City Second heavy storm in 2 days reported for Rapid City and other parts of the Black Hills.  Flooding generally was less severe than for the storm of the previous day. Rapid City Journal . (June 17, 1962). Page 1; page 2.
-- June 15–16, 1962 -- X X -- -- Bear Butte Creek -- Sturgis Article reported that a 1957 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood plan was not implemented because of lack of local support.  Also reported that 14 inches of rain fell between 5 and 11 p.m. on June 15, 1962, in Whitewood.  Black Hills Press. (June 23, 1962).
July 13–14, 1962 July 13–14, 1962 -- -- -- -- X Bear Butte Creek Deadman Creek Sturgis Reported that 1.46 inches of rain fell in 24 hours that ended July 14, 1962, but did not cause flood damage.  Black Hills Press. (July 14, 1962).
July 13, 1962 July 13, 1962 -- -- X X -- Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Substantial flooding reported along Rapid Creek.  Reported that as much as 3 or 4 inches of rain fell west of town. Rapid City Journal. (July 14, 1962). Page 1; page 2; page 3.
July 13, 1962 July 13, 1962 -- -- X X -- Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Additional information provided about substantial damage from flooding along Rapid Creek. Rapid City Journal. (July 15, 1962). Page 1; page 2; page 3.
June 1962 June 15, 1962 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Minor flooding reported for Rapid City on June 15, 1962, and subsequent dates.  Heavy rains and flood damage reported throughout northern Black Hills during late June. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008)
July 13, 1962 July 13, 1962 -- -- X X -- Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Heavy rain and flooding reported for Rapid City. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008)
July 13, 1962 July 13, 1962 -- -- X X -- Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Peak flow of 3,300 ft3/s occurred on July 13, 1962, for station 06414000 (Rapid Creek at Rapid City) after 3.4 inches of rain in Rapid City. Miller (1986); U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
July 13, 1962 July 13, 1962 -- X -- -- -- Cleghorn Canyon -- Rapid City Peak flow of 2,920 ft3/s occurred on July 13, 1962, at station 440325103182500 along Cleghorn Canyon. U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
-- May–June1962 -- -- X X X Elk Creek, Redwater River, Bear Butte Creek -- -- High flows reported for several streams along northeastern flank of Black Hills in 1962.  Noteworthy peak flows include 7,040 ft3/s on May 29 at station 06425500 (Elk Creek near Elm Springs); 16,400 ft3/s on June 16 at station 06433000 (Redwater River above Belle Fourche); and 12,700 ft3/s on June 16 at station 06437500 (Bear Butte Creek near Sturgis). U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
-- June 9, 1964 -- -- X X -- Spearfish Creek -- Spearfish Peak flow of 3,040 ft3/s occurred on June 9, 1964, at station 06431500 (Spearfish Creek at Spearfish). U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
May 15, 1965 May 15, 1965 -- -- X X X Spearfish and Rapid Creeks Various Spearfish Heavy rain on snow caused flooding in Spearfish and many other areas. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008)
-- May 14–15, 1965 -- -- X X X Various -- -- High flows in many streams in central and northern Black Hills in May 1965.  Noteworthy peak flows include a peak of record flow of 2,060 ft3/s on May 15 at  station 06410500 (Rapid Creek above Pactola Reservoir); and peak flows of 4,240 ft3/s on May 15 at station 06431500 (Spearfish Creek at Spearfish); 1,060 ft3/s on May 14 at station 06432200 (Polo Creek near Whitewood); and 8,480 ft3/s on May 15 at station 06433000 (Redwater River above Belle Fourche). U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
-- June 11, 1965 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Peak flow of 706 ft3/s reported for Rapid Creek on June 11, 1965. Miller (1986)
-- June 16, 1967 -- X X X -- Hat Creek -- -- Peak of record flow of 13,300 ft3/s occurred on June 16, 1967, at station 06400000 (Hat Creek near Edgemont). U.S. Geological Survey (2009)



References

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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