Rapid City couple recounts their story of surviving the 1972 flood
RAPID CITY, S.D. – Ronald and Lavonne Masters had been living in Rapid City for around three years before the 1972 flood.
While at a softball game, they noticed dark clouds in the distance which eventually came and dumped a soaking rain on them. The couple and their five children left for home soon after, where they got the children ready for bed before visiting friends.
About an hour into the visit, they received a call from their oldest daughter, Karen.
“She said ‘they’re telling us that we need to be out of our houses now if we live along the creek,'” Lavonne explained. “And we did. We lived across the street from the creek.”
“On Jackson Boulevard, we were the first house on the west side of the bridge,” her husband explained.
They dressed up the children and prepared to leave in their car, a 1965 International Scout A. short time later, as Ronald recalled, a 35-foot wall of water approached — taking out the Canyon Lake Dam and spilling onto the road.
“The first wall of water hit us and just took the vehicle, spun it around in a circle and right into the water,” Ronald said. “And we floated right across the creek and down into a lower place and got caught between the gigantic cottonwood trees.”
All five kids had been in the back of the car: Karen, Joanne, Timothy, Jonathan and Stephen when more water came flooding inside.
Ron managed to free both himself and his wife from the vehicle and eventually his daughter Karen.
In total darkness they held on — clinging to nearby trees through the night. The lightning providing momentary glimpses of their surroundings.
The water did not begin to recede until the early hours of the morning, eventually revealing the window they escaped from — and a voice.
“Joanne, our daughter, came floating over to the water and came right up to my eyes.”
Joanne had managed to find an air pocket in the submerged vehicle. Their sons however, died during the night. Jonathan and Stephen, both with Joanne, had suffocated.
Their youngest son, Timothy, had been lost to the water as Ronald was freeing his wife and daughter Karen.
Timothy’s body was discovered later — the 238th and final recovered in the aftermath of the flood.
Since that night, they have kept to their faith and shared their story all across the country, holding to the belief of seeing their children once again.
“You know, we have all had tragedies — some deeper, some not as hard, but harsh. Life is full of those things to remind us that this world is not our home, and we are just traveling through.”
The couple has also published a book on their experience, “Some Through the Flood.”