The Flood of ’67

fairbanks-flood-1967

Wild fires over the previous year burned away ground cover along the river banks, and unusually high rainfall in July and August sent runoff from higher elevations into the Chena & Tanana Rivers, turning them into rushing torrents.
The Chena River went over flood stage on August 14, and Fairbanks would suffer its largest natural disaster that August of 1967. By the end of the day on the 14th, the majority of Fairbanks and Fort Wainwright would be under water.

JC Penneys 67 Flood

Boats and helicopters would become the main mode of transportation, as people fled to higher ground. Over 7000 people evacuated to the University of Alaska campus, which sits high on a hill. I met a woman several years ago at the post office who gave me a hug after seeing my old Land Rover. I was only slightly taken aback, then she explained that her family had been driven up to the university campus during “The Great Flood” in a truck just like mine. She said the driver would stop when he spotted people stranded, set the hand throttle to keep the water from running up the exhaust pipe, then load them into his truck and hauled them all up to UAF. I would love to know who owned that Series Rover back then.

Amphicar in Fairbanks Flood

This is my favorite photo from the Great Flood. I heard that the owner of this car had been ridiculed pretty hard for owning an amphibious car so far inland. Then the Chena overran its banks, and the car became a bit of a folk hero.
Update 11-6-14: I’ve been told that the owner of the amphibious car was Fletcher Howard Alexander, who owned A&B Auto Sales in Fairbanks. That is just Classic Fairbanks in action.

67 Flood Elbow Room

Four people were killed in the flood waters, and damage ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars. It was also the death knell of Creamer’s Dairy, the last in-town farm, as the flood drove it into bankruptcy.

A Very Wet Samson Hardware

Samson Hardware remained open, selling pumps and everything else with water running through the store. The flood waters damaged the historic 1906, wooden building, forcing major repairs to shore up the walls with concrete. The State used these vital repairs of the building to deny the old store historic status years later and took the land using eminent domain for an unnecessary second bridge across the Chena. “State sanctioned theft, is still theft.” — My soap box moment for the day.

1967_fairbanks-flood truck & horse

Fairbanks Flood

All photos courtesy of the University of Alaska Archives, except the amphibian car, which comes courtesy of the Fountainhead Auto Museum.

About icefogger

Just a basic, down to Earth, laid back type of guy here, who loves the outdoors, the indoors, jazz on the turntable, a fire in the woodstove, the northern lights blazing across the sky, and the company of good friends. View all posts by icefogger

5 responses to “The Flood of ’67

  • Pete

    Thanks for a look at Fairbanks history.

  • keva

    the amphicar was owned by fletcher howard alexander who owed a & b auto sales. he was my grandpa. my dad remembers using it picking up mail and taking it to the airport

    • icefogger

      Keva, I’m glad you stopped by the blog. Thanks for the info on your Grandpa and his incredibly cool car! I love the history of Fairbanks, and your Grandpa was right in the middle of it. Thanks again!

  • Roberta Clark Goughnour

    We lived off Geist Rd on Sprucewood Road. We ended up at the University where we were taken in bu UAF faculty (the Kings). I remember it all like it was yesterday. Another store to thank; College Inn told people to take what they needed and pay later. My understanding is people did come in and pay later. We were Pan Am kids so we were taken to the airport in a big Army transport truck. While others got inline for shots, we were taken to the hanger and given fresh fruit, milk and other treats. Pan Am had brought in food as cargo and had no where to deliver it. We were okay going out of Fairbanks because none of us had bathed for quite a while. However, it was different from Seattle to Portland. We were put together with other “flood refugees”. Our cousin, who picked us up at the airport, had sheets over her car seats. Another lesson learned from Alaska history; beware if you are in a town where a JC Penny store is about to open. Penney’s was about to open in Fairbanks when the flood hit. The downtown store in Anchorage was also about to open in Anchorage when the earthquake hit.

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