18 June 2008

How High's The Water?



We have all been watching the news and the floods throughout the midwest that have driven so many people from their homes as well as destroying farmland and crops in the path of the rising water. For those wishing to assist families made homeless by this cycle of nature, the Red Cross is always the best option.

Many people think of the Great Depression in terms of the dust bowl. What gets little mention is the latter part of the cycle and the great floods of 1937. There was often little warning and tragedies of broken dams, levies, or overflowing rivers took more lives than is common today. One of the most dramatic of these tragedies was not a seasonal flood in the midwest but an event that occurred on June 19, 1938 when a western flash flood of Custer Creek in Montana washed out the tracks causing a train wreck that killed 46 people and seriously injured more than 60.

On the evening of June 19, a track walker was sent out to check the rail lines near Custer Creek in Terry, Montana. He reported dry conditions and no problems with the tracks. However, within just a few hours, a sudden downpour overwhelmed Custer Creek. A bridge used by trains was washed out, and when the Olympian Special came through, it went crashing into the raging waters with no warning. Two sleeper cars were buried in the muddy waters. A pitch-black night on the Great Plains made rescue efforts extremely difficult and 46 people lost their lives. The rear cars stayed above the water, but scores of passengers were seriously injured. They could not be evacuated until the following morning.

If you are interesting in history and genealogy, check out the link above that gives the newspaper coverage of the wreck and lists the names of many of the victims. If you happen to be driving in the western desert this time of year, pay attention to any signs that indicate an arroyo or dry river bed. In the space of just a few minutes, these can turn into life threatening bits of geography.

6 comments:

Sarge Charlie said...

excellent post, and I love johnnie cash. I feel so sorry for the folks along the Mississippi but it is just the way it happens now and then. You can see an be thankful for the effort the local people are taking to save what they can. Two days from now the flood will be in New Orleans, will the press go into full woe is me mode then?

Linda said...

What a tragedy that so many people lost their lives; how very, very sad.

Love the history in this post, as I love all the history in your posts, and the music ain't half bad either!

Travis said...

That's an excellent warning.

I was on vacation some years ago in southern Arizona. We were stopped overnight at a little motel. In the early evening we took a walk down by a dry creek bed that ran near the motel.

There were signs posted, and we sort of paid attention to them. It was difficult to scramble down the side of the creek anyway, so we stayed up on the higher elevation. The manager shouted out to us to move further back. And we casually strolled back over to the office.

He motioned us inside to watch a news report of heavy rains to the north. Sure enough, 30 minutes barely went by before that creek was full right up to the high mark where we had been walking.

It can happen so fast.

eProf2 said...

Excellent historical post, Jamie. And, your advice to drivers here in the west when it rains suddenly, which it surely will starting in July, not to go into dips with water in them is so true.

I'm glad you're enjoying Alisa blog. Quite interesting, eh?

Wow, Craig came unglued today, which is so unlike him. Maybe it will change over there but I doubt it. Too many posters thoroughly enjoy being mean spirited over some of the most petty crap. Yes, I read some but not most of the posts each day but when I return from a two or three day absence it doesn't seem like a single thing has changed, unfortunately.

RebelliousRenee said...

Jamie....
thanks for this blogging about this....

I have been appalled over the media's infatuation with the death of Tim Russert..... of course that is sad...
but what is happening out in the mid-west is truly tragic.....

Lois Grebowski said...

I had some relatives who drowned in a flash flood. I don't drive in any standing water if I can help it.