Natural Disasters (1938-1997)

Retrived from, Oct. 28, 2023

Flood - New Year's Day Storm - January 1-5, 1997

Event Summary: $65,000,000.00 - New Year's day floods in the Weiser, Payette and Salmon River drainages of southwestern Idaho caused record flooding and numerous mudslides. Warm temperatures combined with a rainfall 4-6 times the normal amount; the resulting snowmelt triggered devastating floods, mudslides and avalanches, extensively damaging communities and infrastructure throughout Idaho. The community of South Banks was condemned because of extensive slide damage. Over 400 miles of roads and several railroad lines were blocked or destroyed, stranding over 10,000 holiday travelers in western Idaho. Residents of McCall, Cascade, Banks, Lowman and Garden Valley were isolated. Rivers were "running like chocolate," carrying huge trees, mud and boulders; the Snake River at Hells Canyon Dam crested at 101,728 cfs January 1, nearly 30,000 cfs over its previous record level on 2/23/82. The crash of a plane carrying 5 people from Boise to McCall, killing all, was a result of the weather. Governor Batt declared 13 counties a disaster: Gem, Adams, Washington, Idaho, Clearwater, Valley, Payette, Elmore, Latah, Boundary, Bonner, Shoshone and Boise. A Federal disaster was declared on January 4, 1997.

County Summary: The Payette River at the Black Canyon Dam crested at 39,000 cfs, more than twice flood stage. Highways and bridges were destroyed by mudslides, isolating several communities. Fourteen levees were damaged. Gem County declared a state of emergency along the Payette River January 1, and ordered over 250 people in Emmett to evacuate. 15 people were sheltered by the Red Cross at Emmett High School, and an unknown number at the Mormon Church. A gas line underneath the Payette River broke, leaving 150 people in Emmett without service.


The Idaho Statesman January 2, 3, 4, 1997, 3/20/97

Pestilence - 1985

Event Summary: Grasshopper infestation led to pesticide spraying on over 6 million acres of range; Ada, Elmore, Owyhee and Minidoka counties declared a disaster by USDA, state disaster declaration 6/18/85. County Summary: Grasshopper infestation The Idaho Statesman 3/1/86

Earthquake - August 30, 1982

Event Summary: Earthquake near Montour

County Summary: A magnitude 3.2 earthquake near Montour destroyed a hundred foot head ditch built in 1960, cracked cement as far as the Horseshoe Bend store.

Messenger-Index 9/1/82

Pestilence - 1977

Event Summary: Grasshopper infestation

County Summary: Grasshoppers damaged crops

Flood - December 21-23, 1964

Event Summary: $21,000,000.00 - During the end of December 1964, warm weather combined with heavy rains and melting snow, causing flooding along the Payette, Big Wood, Little Wood, Portneuf, Clearwater and Boise River drainages. Hwy 21 and 15, US 95N and 30E were closed. Over 100 homes were damaged, numerous bridges were washed out, and thousands of acres of farmlands were flooded. 2 deaths were attributed to the flood. A state of emergency was declared.

County Summary: The Payette River was running at a record flow est. at 31,000 cfs near Black Canyon Dam. Floodwaters flowed over the dam, breaking out windows in the powerhouse. Roads and bridges throughout the area were washed away, and families were evacuated by boat and helicopter. Hundreds of head of livestock were isolated or swept away.

The Idaho Statesman Dec. 23, 24, 27, 1964; Messenger-Index 12/31/94

Flood - 2/1-3/1963

Event Summary: $4,685,000.00 - Heavy snowfall followed by heavy rain caused snowmelt, and combined with large ice jams in several rivers, led to severe flooding in the Clearwater, Boise, Payette, Weiser, Portneuf and Snake River drainages. Ice jams and high water in the Clearwater River raised the Hwy 95 bridge a foot off of its pilings. An federal disaster declaration was issued February 15, 1963, for eight Idaho counties due to flooding: Fremont, Madison, Blaine, Owyhee, Bannock, Caribou, Gooding, and Lincoln. Statewide highway damage was est. at $800,000; damage to county roads est. at $700,000.

County Summary: Ice jams in the Payette River damaged the Montour bridge.

The Idaho Statesman Feb. 2, 3, 8, 1963

Flood - February 25, 1957

Event Summary: Heavy rain combined with ice breakup on rivers caused flooding in the Little Wood River, Portneuf River, and Weiser River basins.

County Summary: Hwy 16 closed because of a washed out bridge

The Idaho Statesman 2/27/57

Flood - December 18 - 26, 1955

Event Summary: $1,500,000.00 - Warm rain on snow led to snowmelt and runoff and caused extensive flooding in the Weiser, Payette, Boise and Little Salmon River basins. Payette River peak discharge est. 21,900 cfs. The flood damaged roads, farmlands and buildings, and caused loss of livestock.

County Summary: Rising floodwaters from the Payette River washed out bridges, stranding hundreds of head of livestock.

The Idaho Statesman 12/26/55 ; National Water Summary, 1988-89

Flood - April-June 1943

Event Summary: $1,000,000.00 - Snowmelt combined with rain led to flooding along the Boise and Payette River basins ranging from Boise, Eagle, Emmett, down to Notus. Throughout the area, over 200 families were evacuated, 11 highway bridges across the Boise River were closed for five days or more. Hwy 21 was closed for over a week because of washouts from flooding creeks, isolating Idaho City and Boise Basin communities. Of the damage, over $649,000 was agricultural: over 10,000 acres were flooded. This flood provided the final impetus to build Lucky Peak Dam.

County Summary: Rapid snowmelt and rain raised the Payette River to a peak flow of 21,000 cfs; it remained out of its banks for 13 days. Lowlands along the river from Garden Valley to Payette were flooded.

The Idaho Statesman 4/20/43, USACE "Flood Plain Information Payette, Idaho and Vicinity"

Flood - May 2, 1938

Event Summary: Boise and Payette River floods.

County Summary: Increased runoff and heavy rains led to flooding of farmlands along Payette River. Peak discharge est. at 23,400 cfs, second greatest recorded flood.

The Idaho Statesman, 5/2/38; USACE "Flood Plain Information Payette, Idaho and Vicinity"

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