Front Page News Stories


The flash flood on Willow Creek broke through the Illinois Central grade north of the Vance Motor Court east of LeMars about midnight Sunday, and rose so rapidly it marooned everyone at the motel.

What it was like to be caught in the swiftly swelling flood is recounted in the accompanying story by one of the guests, Mrs. Arlene Raymond, publicity director for the Iowa Chiropractic Association.

Mrs. Raymond had attended a meeting of the Northwest Iowa Chiropractors held Sunday evening in LeMars, and reached the motel at midnight, just before the water hit.

LeMars garages were busy Monday cleaning the cars caught in the motel flood, and many of the guests found it necessary to completely re-outfit themselves with clothes.

As for the motel, Carol Parkinson reported Wednesday that if the water pumps and wells can be fixed, they will be ready to reopen by this weekend. 

“We’ve cut a channel to empty the pool, and it looks as if we’ll get by with not more than $3,000 to $5,000 damage.”

“Of course, we’ve been worried about how it might affect future business, but all our guests have assured us the experience won’t keep them from staying with us whenever they next stop in LeMars. The water was bad, but people have been just wonderful!”

“You can’t imagine how helpful people have been,” he told the Sentinel. “We must have had over 200 people out there helping in one way or another, including the rescue.”

“We don’t know who they all are—even our list of Sunday night’s guests disappeared in the flood—but we want to do something later to show our appreciation. We’re thinking about a big open house later, when things have been properly restored, with a special invitation going to all the people who helped in any way.” 

Photo published with article:
~Taken about 1:15 a.m., at the crest of the flash flood which marooned the Vance Motor Court, this shot shows how the water came to the sills of the cabin windows.  For some reason, the water did not short circuit the motel electrical system.  The water reached the bottom of the windows on the cars.

Photo published with article:
~Dr. Rozeboom, left, checks his outboard motor while a motel guest from Ida Grove, holding his shoes, prepares to land as Duane Terpenning and George Addison hold the boat against the bank. Altogether, 45 persons, including a dozen small children, were removed by the two boats.

By Mrs. Arlene Raymond of Independence, Iowa

You see it in the movies, but you never think it will happen to you.

Dr. and Mrs. Harley Scanlan of Spirit Lake and myself registered at the Wright Motel, now known as the Vance Motel, at 12 midnight Sunday evening, June 7.

Mr. Vance had just taken us to our rooms.  The Scanlans were registered in Room No. 6 and myself in room No. 4.

As Mr. Vance turned to leave, Dr. Scanlan asked him what “the roaring noise” was.  He replied it was the crick back of the motel.

With that, we said “Good Night” and went into our rooms.

I immediately undressed, as I was very tired. I noticed a peculiar odor, and as I looked to the floor, water started to come into my room.  In a matter of seconds, it was ankle deep.

Then I heard Mr. Vance shouting “Get up and get out of here! A flood is coming!” I grabbed my dress, put it on, picked up my makeup kit, and ran to my car.

Just as I reached my car, the water was knee deep.  I got the motor started.  A car from Texas pulled in front of me.

An older man was at the wheel of it, and a big log stopped him. He motioned us all back.

My first impulse was to try to get the car out of there, But by then, the water was flowing across the floor of my car.

Mr. Vance was tell everyone to come up to his apartment. I pulled my car up to the front of the Motel and tried to run, but now the water was up to my hips. I carried my make up kit with my purse. I went upstairs.

Mr. Vance warned everyone not to touch the electric lights or any switches. There was panic every where.

Small children that had been yanked out of beds were crying, old people on their way to Rochester were shivering, young girls crying.  Down deep inside of me, I had been praying from the first to get out of there. How selfish I was.

All of a sudden a young girl asked everyone to get down on their knees while she led us in prayer.

It was a prayer I will never forget. The panic calmed down during the prayer; children stopped crying and everyone felt we would get help.

Mrs. Scanlan asked Mrs. Vance to call for help on the phone. She did.

After what seemed like hours, there was a light on the highway.  Everyone was watching the water on their cars.  Up! Up! Went the water.

In less than seven minutes the water was covering the hoods of the cars. Children were crying harder. The back windows were open, and we could hear the roaring water we had heard when we came in.

Mrs. Scanlan went around and closed the windows. Dr. Scanlan helped the older people get the blankets off the Vances’ beds.  Mr. and Mrs. Vance were taking their clothes out of their closets and giving them to the people who were wet. Mr. Vance gave the men dry socks and his shoes.

Dr. Scanlan had lost a shoe out of his hand when he got out of his car. By the time he reached the door here was his shoe, floating ahead of him.

Everyone was taking care of each other.

I had a happy thought, I must let Dr. Rozeboom know I was in trouble. He would help me, I was sure. I called his home—a home I had left with the Scanlans only 15 minutes before. 

He was shocked and said he would bring his boat and motor and come at once.

Everyone was watching the highway. More lights came.  The men crawled out on the roof and called for help, but their voices were drowned out by the roaring of the water.

Never had I seen it so dark. Never had I seen such swirling water, filled with debris.  Up came the water. Now my head lights were gone.

Such a feeling of panic. I tried to call my family in Independence.  Finally I got Edna Lane, my insurance friend. She told me to get out of there.  I said yes, but how? 

Just then I looked out of the window and saw a small boat. Here was Rudy Adler with Roger DeYoung.

I hung up the phone and started to the window. Everyone was shouting, “Children and mothers first.”

It was so dark, everyone was just as afraid to get in the boat as they were to stay.  Why the cars didn’t put their lights on the boat? Why didn’t some one give them a big power light?

Now they went on their way with the first load.  We watched that first boat and inside of me, I prayed for its safety.

The swirling water was so fast and the logs so black as they floated by. What a thrill, we began, just then, to notice the water was receding. Now it was down just an inch.

The first load had landed.  I looked up from my car to see Dr. Rozeboom. With him was DeWayne Olson.  I didn’t care now, we knew we were to be taken safely to shore. 

So we began getting people out of the center window. We laughed as the fatter ones had such a time to get out of the windows.  Some families wanted to go together, but there were too many, so they finally broke up in little groups, three in with Rudy Adler and four and five with Dr. Rozeboom.

Mrs. Vance was giving the mothers her bedspreads to put over them.  Coats and sweaters of the Vances were given to the people who were wet so they would not be cold as they went into the boats.

Everyone was laughing, a sort of nervous gaiety. Now it was my time to crawl through the window.  I ,too, had a little difficulty. How clumsy can a person get?  Dr. Rozeboom and Mr. Olson helped us, Mr. Olson trying to hold the boat steady while the Doctor helped us into the boat.

The water whirled against the side of the boat. The shore was a million miles away. I will never forget how I felt as the Highway Patrolman helped me out of the boat on solid ground.

We waited for everyone to land. Carol Parkinson was taking everyone to his home, where all 45 of us were invited to stay.  However, Dr. and Mrs. Harley Scanlan and myself stayed at Dr. Rozeboom’s house.

The little family of four small children from California were with their mother and daddy were without any clothes.  So were all the other small children and big ones, too.

I looked back at the cars that carried all our belongings under water and thought, “Just an hour and a half ago we were drinking coffee and enjoying ourselves and so safe!”

Mr. Parkinson and Mr. Vance had tried so hard to keep everyone happy. I assured them I have stayed at their Motel for the past four years, and when I return again I will stay with them again. We have gone through an experience together that will always make us friends.

I would like to say to the people of LeMars, your merchants who helped us on our way, have been wonderful. I will leave here with a soft spot in my heart for the, and the Vances and Parkinson and of course, Dr. Rozeboom and his family and all the other friendly people who have been so friendly and helpful.

Two additional photos published with this article:
~Rescue work accomplished, the boat is lifted from the swollen lake for use later in the day, if needed in other flooded areas.
~Helping hands reach to pull a boat up on shore so a family from California can step to dry ground from the Rickabaugh boat piloted by Rudy Adler (right.)

[Transcriber will try to get better scanned copies of the photographs published with this article – to hopefully post later on this page.]