Flooding of Buffalo Creek, West Virginia


In the days preceding February 26, 1972, rain fell almost continuously, although experts later claimed this was typical for late winter weather in the area.

At 8:05 a.m., the dam collapsed and approximately 132 million gallons of black wastewater rushed through the narrow Buffalo Creek hollow.

In a matter of minutes, 125 were dead, 1,100 injured, and more than 4,000 West Virginians were homeless.

The West Virginia National Guard responded with nine hundred personnel aiding in search and rescue, security, and water purification.

Eventually the mission changed for the West Virginia National Guard and they began repairing roads and bridges destroyed by the flood.

The rescue mission turned into a recovery mission where Guard members recovered the remains of those lost in the flood.

The flood demolished 502 houses, 44 mobile homes and over 1000 cars and trucks.

An additional 943 houses and mobile homes were damaged.

As the Guard mission shifted from search to recovery, West Virginia National Guard trucks were used to transport the remains of the flood’s victims. The rugged nature of military trucks gave them access to areas too challenging for civilian vehicles.

In addition to a helping hand, the West Virginia National Guard provided a full spectrum of equipment from heavy earth moving machines to helicopters in support of the Buffalo Creek flood relief efforts.

Property damage at Buffalo Creek was estimated at $50 million.

West Virginia National Guard members cleared critical access roads to allow first responders and relief agencies access to the disaster areas. Engineers constructed temporary bridges where previous ones had been destroyed by flood waters.