RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — This week marks 50 years since a deadly flood ripped through Rapid City. The devastation impacted people and businesses for years. It also led to many changes.
Flood waters took over Rapid City in 1972, leaving behind unbelievable destruction and forever changing the city.
“When the flood happened, there were businesses almost right next to the creek and the smartest thing that we ever did as a community was to not build there again, to build the flood zone and the park system through all of downtown along the creek,” Chris Johnson said.
Thanks to those changes, 50 years later, downtown Rapid City is as busy as ever.
Presidential Pawn has been around for about 12 years and the owner says last year was one of its best years yet economically.
“This is a place everyone wants to be. Not just to be shopping and enjoying themselves with the nightlife and Main Street Square but it’s also a place where businesses want to locate themselves,” Chris Johnson said.
Elevate Rapid City CEO, Tom Johnson says if a similar flood were to happen today, it could cost the region a couple of billion dollars.
“But I’d like to hope that everybody would come together like they did in ’72 too. It’s a different time, we didn’t have cell phones so I would hope that we would actually be able to save more lives now, with better warning signs, better investments in infrastructure, and people can communicate quicker so I think it wouldn’t be as catastrophic today if we had a flood because they made those changes so that it wouldn’t happen again,” Tom Johnson, CEO of Elevate Rapid City, said.
While the city has recovered, it’s still important to honor the 238 lives lost 50 years ago as well as the first responders who risked their lives to save others.
Elevate Rapid City says the population during the 1970s was less than half of what it is today.
We’ve included a list of events for the commemoration of the flood here.