Cleaning house physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Posts tagged ‘disasters’

Teton Dam Collapse – Part 3

This is the continuation of My Disaster Resume, Teton Dam Collapse – Part 1,  and Part 2.

We were truly among the fortunate because we had no property damage, no one we knew was hurt, although several friends lost their houses. Everyone seemed to be OK though. Now I wonder if they were really OK and my perception–as a 25-year old–was completely off base.

My one, inconsequential loss was a warped AeroSmith album. How minor; how trite to even mention it now compared to losses by others. Yet that was the reality of it at the time. For some reason, there was change in the air brought on by the dam collapse. Three friends, including one of my roommates at the time, and I started talking about leaving Idaho Falls.

Several weeks later, the four of us packed up our cars, started our own caravan, and headed to Portland, Oregon. The trip was full of challenges. At one point, the bikes on the bike rack on the back of my car became loose. It apparently was quite the sight for the car following me; bikes bouncing up and down and dipping and twisting. There were no cell phones or way to contact each other, so the driver had to pass me and get me to pull over.

We made it to Portland and stayed with the older sister of my roommate. I now think the move was just something that had to be done, a kind of irrelevant response to the “change.” I stayed in Portland for a month, then drove to Spokane to visit family. At that point, I had no idea what I was going to do. My old work place contacted me and asked me to come back. That was an easy decision as I still had everything backed in my car (including my dog) and no other prospects.

Back in Idaho Falls, I even moved back into the house where I used to live. Went back to the same old job. It was as if nothing changed at all, except a two month vacation.

I ended up moving into the rebuilt house that my friends had lived in. Great little house in the country. I could look out the kitchen window and see the Grand Teton.

Two years later I left Idaho Falls for good. The Teton Dam was long gone; they have never rebuilt it. There continues to be talk about rebuilding it, but still nothing. This is a picture of the what’s left of the site.

My life changed after I left Idaho Falls.  But that will have to be considered for future posts.

Teton Dam Collapse – Part 1

Continuing with my disaster resume, here’s my recollection of the 1976 Teton Dam collapse.

Teton Dam spillway (before collapse)

The Teton Dam was an earthen dam on the Teton River, just a few miles from Newdale, Idaho. The dam was started in 1972 and when done, filling began in October 1975.  A few days before the actual collapse on June, 5, 1976, a small leak appeared.  Authorities worked to stop this supposedly minor leak. But it just got larger and on June 5, the end was near. An incredible series of pictures is located here.

It was a beautiful day in Idaho Falls, Idaho. I shared a house, located on the banks of the Snake River in Idaho Falls,  with a couple of women. At that time, I was a quality control manager at a potato processing plant in Ririe, a tiny town about 20 miles northeast of Idaho Falls. One of my jobs was to pull sneak inspections, even on weekends. So that sunny morning, I drove to Ririe and did my thing.

Failure of the first half of the dam.

When I got home about noon, both ladies I roomed with were watching TV (the Muppet Show). All of a sudden, the show was interrupted with news of the Teton Dam collapse.  We were glued to the TV because we all had friends in the Rexburg area and wondered what it would all mean. Soon we found out that Rexburg was flooded and the water was going to come into the Snake River with gusto.

By that time, local officials had stopped by and recommended that we consider evacuation due to the potential flooding. So we contacted some friends and started quickly packing stuff. Mostly we loaded up furniture, including a piano. With the help of friends and the fact that we didn’t really have all that much stuff, we were packed up within a few hours.

After getting all that done, the waters had not yet hit the Snake River by us, so we decided to stay where we were and see what was going to happen. Several friends came by and we just hung out watching the river and listening to the news on the radio.

The flooded falls in Idaho Falls

Finally, very early on Sunday morning, things began to happen. We (I and friends) were sitting near the bank of the river just watching debris float by. The river was about 6-8 feet below me, so I wasn’t too worried. All of a sudden there was tremendous noise. We jumped up to see where it was coming from and then looked at the river. YIKES – it was rising incredibly fast; so fast that we scrambled to get away before it overtook us.

Yup, the river breached its bank by our house. Someone ran out to the main street (Yellowstone Highway) and flagged down a sand truck. They came into our area and dumped tons of sand, left us shovels and burlap bags. Guess you know what we did!

The area I lived in was just off the highway and there were only 3 houses back there. The owner of our house lived next door. The other people were out of town. We all sandbagged for hours to keep the water from getting to our houses.

I also had a dog (American Eskimo) who was in the fenced front yard. At one point, someone stopped by and was going to take the dog because they thought she was abandoned. Thankfully I saw them in time so my dog was safe. I then up a sign so it wouldn’t happen again. We were all quite busy sandbagging out back.

Although we successfully sandbagged to protect the homes, local authorities came by later that day and made us evacuate. They wer seriously considering having to blow up the bridge that was just upstream. A lot of debris was building up on the bridge and causing more flooding into the downtown area. By blowing up the debris dam (and part of the bridge), they could reduce the flooding upstream. Of course, blowing up everything would not be good for us.

Sandbagging in downtown Idaho Falls (photo by

We left the area and spent the night with friends. Up at the crack of dawn, we returned to find that they were able to break up the debris without blowing up the bridge. The sandbags held so we were all feeling thankful. And then those darn local authorities showed up again. Water was receding upstream and causing a second wave (pun intended) of flooding downstream. That was us.

Once again, we watched the water and soon noticed it rising again. But we were prepared this time. We were already on the route for sand delivery, so it was just deja vu–shovel sand into bags, give bag to someone else, deposit bag in the best place (where ever that would be at the time).

One more time, the sandbagging held back the flood waters.  Stay tuned for part 2.

Toilet Training the Cats #5

Sunni investigating the small opening

About 9 days ago I opened up the first hole in the CitiKitty tray to introduce the cats to the “toilet” world. That did not go well at all (see the intro here). After about 40 hours, the cats were not using the tray at all and someone (not providing a name to protect the innocent), peed and pooped on the bath rug in the upstairs bathroom.

I was a bit concerned about them not accepting this change and also I was not all that interested in cleaning up, so I decided to replace the cutout. I cleaned up everything and used duct tape to close up the opening. Within 1 minute, MeiMei was up on the toilet and producing a river! After a quick clean up, Sunni did the same thing. Whew, the opening created the problem, and maybe we could get over it.

It took several days before Sunni was convinced that using the toilet again would be OK. After both of them were doing all business in the toilet as desired, I would then consider having a small opening again.

Today was that day. I removed the taped cover for the first hole and taped it back down with just a small opening instead of the original larger opening. Someone has used it a couple of times already this evening. Not sure if Sunni (the cautious one) is involved yet.

Yard sale left-overs

The weekend yard sale was OK; between the two of us, we made a few $$. It was hot (94 F.) and hotter. I guess I’m not a true yard sale person, because I could not understand why people came early (can’t they read the signage that says 9 to 1 ?) and showed up way after 1:00.  But the best was that we both got rid of stuff we didn’t want. Teen girl clothes that did not sell will be taken to the Teen Closet, a local organization to provide clothing to foster children. In the past, I had 3 foster kids, so even today, I recognize this enormous need. The rest of the left-overs will go to another organization.

And to end the day, I must share this photo of my daughter (who did not want her picture taken, thus the cover up. I had forgotten the purchase of the t-shirt shortly after Hurricane Andrew. Apparently my daughter found it and wears it. And she was a survivor, so it’s OK.

Surviving Andrew