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The Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Cody, WY - Where the west begins. Located in historic Cody, WY just an hour from the east entrance of Yellowstone. Hardship, peril gunplay. Bring the kids.

Lake Hebgen
Lake Hebgen
© Vertical Media
1959 Earthquake News

QUAKE HITS HEBGEN

DEATH TOLL MOUNTS IN FACE OF MAJOR MONTANA DISASTER

HELENA, Mont. (AP)

Earthquakes hit the Northwest from British Columbia to Wyoming Monday night and early today, leaving a mounting death toll over southwestern Montana. The shocks were so severe a big Montana dam was damaged and a mountainside toppled into a river.

Sixteen deaths were reported.

Six deaths were reported to Sheriff Lloyd Brook at Virginia City, by a helicopter pilot who flew over the scene. The Idaho State Police in a radio broadcast said there had been eight deaths. A radio station executive who got into the area said he learned that two people had been buried by a landslide in the Madison River canyon below the big slide area. He theorized more might be dead.

There was no way, Civil Defense headquarters here said, of determining whether there is duplication in the reports.

The report of the people covered by the slide came from Richard D. Smiley, president and general manager of radio station KXXL at Bozeman, Mont., who got into the stricken area as far as the big slide. He said he was told that three boys escaped the same slide.

The helicopter pilot told Sheriff Brooks he had counted the six bodies during a flight over the scene.

The quakes shook Yellowstone National Park, filled with summer tourists.

Lake Hebgen
Lake Hebgen
© Vertical Media
Dean Stone, managing editor of the Maryville-Alcoa (Tenn.) Times, was among the tourists routed by the quake. He said the hotel and Mammoth Hot Springs rumbled for several minutes and that at least one auto was trapped inside the park by a rockslide.

Dr. W. A. Melther, manning a hospital in Ashton, east Idaho town, said he treated half a dozen minor injury cases from West Yellowstone. Three or four of the people, he said, were pretty badly shaken up.

He said there is a general exodus from the western gateway of the park, 57 miles northeast of Ashton.

The assistant chief ranger at Yellowstone Park, Frank Sylvester, said most west side roads were closed by slides but tourist travel was carried on through other entrances. A water main broke in the eastern wing of Old Faithful Inn.

He reported there appeared to be no damage to Old Faithful and other famed geysers and scenic features in the park.

He said the last heavy tremor in the park was in 1924 and that the geysers also escaped damage.

He reported roads closed by rockslides included south from Mammoth, Norris Junction to Madison Junction and from Old Faithful to Madison Junction.

Most of the residents of Ennis, Mont., about 50 miles downstream from Hebgen Dam, were evacuated in the predawn hours but about a hundred remained. The evacuation was ordered when it appeared the third of a million acre feet in Hebgen Lake might pour down on them. The evacuation was called off when the mountainside blocked the river so tightly it shut off all the stream's flow.

Many of those who left Ennis went to nearby Virginia City, famed in Western lore as the birthplace of the Vigilantes.

The first quake struck at 11:30 p.m. (MST).

All tourists staying in the town were awakened at 2 a.m. and were advised to get out. The same advice was given to tourists at Three Forks, several miles downstream.

Lake Hebgen
Lake Hebgen
© Vertical Media
Civil Defense Director Potter appealed for helicopters to aid in the rescue and asked the U.S. Forest Service to send in a smokejumper equipped with a radio to help organize the people. A smokejumper is a parachutist who jumps into forest fire areas to fight blazes.

The search and rescue coordinating center of the 4th Air Force at Hamilton Field, near San Francisco, said it is mustering helicopters to try to rescue the marooned persons. The 'copters are being rounded up from Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and the Army at Ft. Lewis, Wash.
Varied reports came out of the condition of Hebgen Dam. The Montana Power Co., which owns it, said it was damaged at the top and that it "could go." At various times through early morning hours there were reports it had "gone out."

The fatalities were reported by a helicopter pilot, who said he counted the bodies as he circled the area.

Two of the dead were in the Cliff Lake area, killed when a quake sent a cliff hurtling down on them. Another was believed to be in the Wade Lake area. The Sheriff at Virginia City, Mont., did not know where the other bodies were seen. He had no identification of the victims.

Bulletin

The first four injured persons brought to the hospital here at 2 p.m. today were identified as Margaret Holmes, 72, of Billings; Ray N. Painter, 46, and his wife, 42, of Ogden, Utah, and Clarence D. Scott, 59, Fresno, Calif.
The Billings woman and Mr. and Mrs. Painter were listed as surgical patients.
The condition of the patients was not immediately available.
Four other injured persons were expected momentarily. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle; August 18, 1959] 

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