Rexburg to commemorate Teton Dam disaster with ‘Flood of Memories’ event
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REXBURG — The course of history for several east Idaho cities was altered when the Teton Dam broke on June 5, 1976. This Saturday, the Museum of Rexburg will hold a special event commemorating the disaster.
The event is called “Flood of Memories” and will start at 2:25 p.m., which was when floodwaters from the Teton Dam first reached Rexburg. It will include a presentation about the disaster, as well as the screening of the documentary about the flood that played at the museum for years.
Time will then be turned over to community members for questions and answers and to share stories and memories about the flood.
“(Museum of Rexburg) is doing this event to help people get together to reminisce and remember the things that they experienced. It’s also to teach people who are new to the area or children or who otherwise don’t know about the flood to see how we recovered from it and how we grew from it,” museum spokeswoman Alisha Tietjen told EastIdahoNews.com.
The story of the flood tells how the deluge from the dam breakage greatly damaged communities across eastern Idaho.
“At 11:57 am on June 5, 80 billion gallons of water breached the dam and flooded southeast Idaho,” said Tietjen. “The water hit Wilford first and the wave there was about twenty to thirty feet. Then it hit Sugar City and by then it was about fifteen feet and when it hit Rexburg it was still about fifteen feet.”
“It went around the Menan Butte and flooded Roberts then went into the Snake River and flooded parts of Idaho Falls, Firth and Blackfoot,” she continued. “It took three days and the water was finally stopped at the American Falls Reservoir. Eleven people lost their lives in the initial flooding and there were millions of dollars in damage.”
But the story of the Teton Dam disaster is also the story of resilient Idahoans from many communities banding together to recover and rebuild.
“I feel like Rexburg and all the areas that were affected have been able to be a model of resilience and overcome those hard things,” Tietjen said. “The number of volunteers that came in and helped clean out basements and different things was very touching. There’s been that spirit that has lingered here since then of helping out one another and lifting one another.”
Tietjen hopes that people from all the towns affected by the flood are able to come out and tell their stories.
“This event isn’t just for Rexburg and Sugar City and the area around here,” she said. “We’re hoping that people from Blackfoot, Firth, Idaho Falls and Roberts also come and share their experiences. Every story is unique. We’re hoping that people come in and tell their stories and we’re going to be recording those stories so that we can tell the stories of the people who were affected for many, many years.”
“Flood of Memories” is set to take place at the Romance Theater in Rexburg on Saturday, June 4 at 2:25 pm. The event is free. Those who can’t attend in person but still want to share their flood stories are encouraged to contact the Museum of Rexburg either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (208) 359-3063.