This week marks the 40 year anniversary of the Teton Dam Disaster. To commemorate the flood, Special Collections is sponsoring two open houses on Thursday, June 2, from 2-4 and 6-8 pm. Videos of the flood as well as histories of the event will be shown and a special guest speaker will discuss the experiences of those who lived through the event as recorded in oral histories. This week, a blog post will be posted every day highlighting the oral history of one survivor of the flood.
40 years ago today at 11:57 AM, the Teton Dam burst.
The Teton Dam, an earthen dam located about 15 miles northeast of Rexburg, suffered a catastrophic failure that Saturday morning as the reservoir behind it was filling for the first time. The 240,000 acre-feet of flood waters drained within 6 hours, nearly wiping out several communities downstream and changing the entire landscape before being contained 36 hours later in the American Falls reservoir, 150 miles away.
Here are a few key facts:
- The dam was built 1972-1975 by the Bureau of Reclamation.
- It was 305 feet high, 0.6 miles long.
- It cost $100 million to build.
- The reservoir was filled to 30.3 feet below the crest when the dam breeched, releasing more than 2 million cubic feet of water per second.
- The deaths of at least 11 people have been attributed to the failure of the dam.
- Nearly 4,000 homes were damaged or destroyed; 350 businesses were lost.
- Some 16,000 cattle were drowned in the floodwaters.
- The topsoil was stripped from tens of thousands of acres of farmland.
- The government paid 7,563 claims for a total of $322 million, although total damage estimates have ranged up to $2 billion.
- Government committees analyzing the dam afterwards determined the cause of failure to be a combination of geological factors and poor design decisions.