For homeowners, tension followed by relief

Chuck and Tina Spragg got a bird’s eye view of the events that occurred Sunday, March 9 when ice jammed to the tip-top of Greybull’s dike, threatening to go up and over.  The Spraggs’ home at 317 10th Ave. N. is  “about 8 to 10 yards from the dike,” Tina said. “I could see everything from our bedroom window. We have lived here since 1982 and I have never seen anything like it,” she said of the massive buildup. “I have seen water come up to the bottom of the dike, but not anything like that.”

Tina said she had heard stories of past floods, and recalls interviewing George (Conoco) Scott for a middle school report. She was too young to have any personal memories of the flood scare of 1962, but heard stories retold by her parents, Esther and the late Red Lindsay.

“They lived in a basement and had to evacuate. Dad ‘evacuated’ all the cars at Core Chevrolet first; then he came back for Mom and I,” she was told.

She said that from the first news of the ice jamming, she was “surprised more than anything. I was not really very concerned.” Part of the reason could be Chuck was working with the Greybull Volunteer Fire Department so she was aware of what steps were being taken to avert a flood.

Gary and Linda Patrick live two blocks south of the Spraggs at 209 Eighth Ave. N.,  in close proximity to the dike.

“When Linda and I came home from church we could see the ice (at the top of the dike) from the ground,” Patrick said. “Oh, my goodness, I thought. It was more than we expected. We changed clothes and started gathering our papers, albums, computers, things like that. Then we took it out to the shop (at River Road Honey).” When they got back and looked at their belongings, “We knew the rest was just stuff, things. We got what we thought was important out.”

“When we got back we went up on the dike but they started bringing in the big equipment and moving the cement barriers up. It was getting congested, so we decided to drive up on the Heights. When we drove over the bridge I thought I could see the ice moving. I felt happy, happy, happy. It was a huge relief.” They continued onto the Heights and parked directly opposite from their home and reaffirmed that the ice was indeed moving.

“I thought, ‘I am going to stay here and watch it until clear water comes through.’ We could see it from the bridge and pretty soon the ice was gone.”

Patrick said they “really appreciated the help of the town, the National Guard … they were great. There is one thing we thought of … it might have been nice to have a pile of sand and sandbags for individuals to fill. I would have liked to fill some and sandbag my basement.”

One block south of the Patricks, Bill and Ione Craft, who live at 210 Seventh Ave. N., watched the activity play out all day. “We watched it all. We can thank our lucky stars for the dike,” Bill said. They were not concerned about actual flooding. “Eddie (son) kept us up on what was happening; He even had us pack our bags in case we had to evacuate,” Ione added.

A sidebar for the Crafts was hearing from “kinfolks here and there, even way back east, who saw pictures (stories) of the ice jam on Facebook. It was kind of fun,” Ione laughed.

“We can sing the praises of the National Guard,” the couple agreed. “They were Johnny-on-the-spot.”

John and Betty Koller live at 234 Fifth Ave. N. in a small gyp block house that withstood both of the town’s early floods.  Luckily, it wasn’t tested a third time.

Betty said she and John went for a walk in the afternoon and the view on Sixth Avenue, “almost took my breath way. The ice was virtually at the top of the dike. We knew it was serious.” They returned home, gathered photos, other important things from the basement, but then decided, “whatever will happen, will happen.”

John said as they were looking at the ice jam he realized two things: 1) “The dike was built to accommodate the river as rising water flowed downstream (tipped from south to north). The ice that jammed the river backed it (water) up to a level surface like a lake so the north end was at greater risk due to the level of the water;” 2) “When we drove out by MI we saw the water was over the railroad spur than runs to the plant. That meant water was flowing around the ice jam. I knew than unless we had rain, or more snow, the water would probably go no higher.”