Alaska March 14, 2019
In 1967, A Massive Flood Swept Through Alaska That No One Can Ever Forget
Just over fifty years ago, Fairbanks, Alaska experienced one of the largest natural disasters the state of Alaska has ever seen. In 1967, the entire city was flooded. The Historic Fairbanks Flood of 1967 displaced thousands of residents and forced an entire city to rebuild. Any Alaskan around during this time has not forgotten this truly tragic event.
The rains started falling in July of 1967. Fairbanks received double the amount of rain that it normally received.
Then, disaster struck. Between August 11th and August 13th, in a 24 hour period, the Fairbanks received almost four inches of rain. It was the heaviest amount of rain in recorded history for that area.
It didn't stop raining, either. The month of August received almost three times the amount of rainfall it normally received.
This crazy amount of rain turned the Chena River, which runs through downtown Fairbanks, into a raging torrent of waters. It quickly passed the "flood" stage and continued to rise even higher.
Volunteers tried to build a sandbag barrier around the hospital downtown, but it didn't work. Patients, doctors, and employees of the hospital had to evacuate.
Fairbanks residents began to stream into the University of Alaska on College Hill. The university ended up as a shelter for almost 8,000 Fairbanks residents, even though they were only equipped to handle around 1,000 students.
95 percent of Fairbanks ended up flooded. Some places around the city were under five feet of water.
During the crest stage, reports of waters hit 18.82 feet at the USGS Stream Gauging station on the banks of the Chena River. The seriousness of the flood prompted Congress to create the Chena River Flood Control.
It took more than two weeks for the water to slowly recede.
The flood cost Fairbanks hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Roads, bridges, and railroad tracks were all washed away.
St. Joseph's Memorial Hospital was forced to close.
Eventually, the citizens of Fairbanks collected enough private donations, totaling over $2.6 million, to add to $6 million in state and federal funds to build Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
The last surviving Fairbanks farm, Creamer's Dairy, ended up going bankrupt.
The city of Fairbanks ended up fundraising to purchase the farm. Creamer's Dairy is now a popular bird sanctuary, and many residents walk the beautiful paths through the old farm to bird watch.
The historic Fairbanks Flood was tragic and claimed the lives of four Fairbanks citizens.
Nevertheless, Fairbanks quickly bounced back. In 1968 it received the designation of one of eleven "All-American Cities." Fairbanks residents banded together, rebuilding rapidly with the help of low-interest federal loans. Now Fairbanks is one of the top tourist destinations in Alaska.
For a closer look at this devastating flood, check out this footage from the Alaska Film Archives on YouTube: VIDEO
Were you around in Alaska during this great flood? Do you know anyone who experienced it first hand? Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re interested in more history about Alaska, check out
The Very First Road In Alaska Still Exists And Its History Is Captivating!