2016 marks 40th anniversary of the Teton Dam Flood

“At 8:30 on Saturday morning, June 5th (1976), two major leaks in the were reported–one along the right embankment about 130 feet from the top and another larger leak on the downstream toe of the dam,” according to¬†That Day in June: Reflections on the Teton Dam Disaster by Janet Thomas. “At 10, one more large leak developed near the top.”

By 11:55 a.m., the crest of the embankment had collapsed sending water hurling into the valley according to Teton Flood: June 5, 1976 Revisited by Louis J. Clements.

Two local radio stations had representatives on site when the dam ruptured and reported the event, warning the residents of Wilford and Sugar City to evacuate. Police traveled about the country side warning farmers and other residents to evacuate, according to That Day in June: Reflections on the Teton Dam Disaster.

“By the time we got to Teton, the announcer said that the dam was going, that it had broken,” Keith Walker, a resident who witnessed the disaster said, according to Teton Flood: June 5, 1976 Revisited. “The dam wasn’t going to hold as all the water was really coming out of it.”

Robyn Layton of Rigby, who lived in Rexburg at the time of the disaster said she watched the flood from her apartment as it rushed down Main Street carrying with it cars, huge logs, sheds, trailers and animals according toThat Day in June: Reflections on the Teton Dam Disaster.

Val Dalling of Rexburg said once he and his son Roger finished moving their things upstairs in their home, they packed dirt around their window wells and shut off their power. They then decided to leave once the water was half a block away according to That Day in June: Reflections on the Teton Dam Disaster.

“We drove to the west end of our block and around to a south road,” Dalling said, according to That Day in June: Reflections on the Teton Dam Disaster. “The water was upon us before we got to the hill. Roger was behind me in another car. It was an anxious and stricken father that watched in the mirror as his son was being carried by the water, but Roger got out of it and soon caught up with me.”

By March 16, 1977, the Bureau of Reclamation received claims from those impacted by the flood which totaled more than $250 million. About 100,000 acres of agricultural land was drastically affected by the flood according to Teton Flood: June 5, 1976 Revisited.

“Of the total first phase Teton Basin Project cost of $85,676,000, approximately $40 million in facilities was lost or damaged,” according to Teton Flood: June 5, 1976 Revisited. “In addition, several million dollars had been spent investigating the failure of the dam.”