Remembering The Flood
When asked, “Where were you on 9/11?” Most people can recall with clarity the exact moment they heard about the Twin Towers in NY and where they were and what they were doing. The same thing can be said about the Teton Dam Flood of 1976. Sunday marked 35 years since one of the biggest disasters in Eastern Idaho. Local people said the water might be gone, but it’s certainly not forgotten. It was sunny skies over Sugar City on Sunday, much like June 5, 1976 when a break in the Teton Dam sent 80 billion gallons of water charging through the Upper Valley, taking with it 11 lives.
“It’s just like it was yesterday,” said Bill Schofield, who lived through the event. “I remember a lot of the actions we took. A lot of the things we did. A lot of the tears we cried. We were devastated.”
Schofield was working in the grocery store he owned, when he said an officer came in around 11 a.m. telling him to close up shop.
“I recall saying, ‘I cant close my store on a Saturday. If I close my store on a Saturday, I won’t be able to pay my bills on Monday,’” he said.
Forced to evacuate, Schofield packed up his family and a loaf of bread, then watched the destruction from the top of Rexburg.
“From the hill, you could see houses floating down the main street of Rexburg,” said Schofield.
Others recalled entire city streets under water, all images they’ll never forget.
“I saw cattle floating, I saw livestock. It was just amazing, the destruction it was causing,” said Tom Fleming.
“Just to think about the swath of destruction that line of water did from here all the way down to Blackfoot, to American Falls,” said Zane Powell, who was only 5-years-old at the time.
After finding his store in ruins and a dead cow lying inside, Schofield debated whether or not to return to Sugar City at all. But in the end, he did. He rebuilt and now calls the flood a positive impact on the community.
“I remember the cohesiveness we had as a community and the opportunity we had to be equal, and nobody was better than anyone else cause nobody had anything,” said Schofield.
Residents dug mud out of their homes, salvaged what they could, and started over with help from people in nearby areas.
“It’s amazing how everybody came together and helped each other,” said Fleming.
There are currently no plans to rebuild the Teton dam.