Fairbanks Flood of 1967


The Great flood

August 1967, a month after the 100th anniversary of the U.S.'s purchase of the Territory of Alaska from Russia, Fairbanks saw 6.20 inches of rain in a one-month period. The average for Fairbanks in August is 2.20 inches. This unprecedented rainfall caused the Chena River to overflow. It quickly surpassed flood stages and the water continued to rise. However, due to the placement of hydrological gear, which was too far downstream from Fairbanks to properly relay information about increasing water levels, the citizens of Fairbanks had no idea of the enormity of the flood until it hit. Volunteers were quick to dig ditches and build sandbag dikes in an attempt to stop the flood, but were unsuccessful. The University of Alaska Fairbanks on College Hill became a destination for refuge. The president of the university expected about 700 community members to come to the building made to house around 1,000 students; but, over 7,000 people arrived seeking refuge. Four people lost their lives in the flood, and the city faced millions of dollars in damages. The people of Fairbanks faced this tragedy by banding together. They postponed their annual state fair, and raised money to help local businesses.  In the wake of the flood, U.S. Congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1968. This act helped fund the Chena River Lakes Flood Control Project, which built dams and dikes to prevent future flooding incidents. 

           the Flood Control Act of 1968

Pressured in part by the Fairbanks flood, the U.S. Congress passed the Flood Control Act of 1968. In July of that year, a few government groups created a draft of Proposed Flood Hazard Evaluation Guidelines for Federal Executive Agencies. This short document detailed different tactics that Federal agencies should apply in regards to a flood. The U.S. has a large history with floods and Flood Control Acts. The Constitution does not give the federal government power over flood legislation. However, the Supreme Court had granted such power over the legislation in the past in reaction to other floods. In other moments of U.S. history, Congress has passed laws that give them the power to intervene in state affairs in the wake of floods, including sending the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Flood Control Act of 1968 itself focused on flood loss insurance.              

Long Term Effects of the flood

Through the Flood Act of 1968, the city gained funds to establish the Chena River Lakes Flood Control Project upstream of Fairbanks. The project diverts the Chena River into the Tanana River when the water level of the former is too high. The Tanana River is lined with dikes to stop it from flooding Fairbanks from the south. The Flood Act also gave many businesses of Fairbanks low interest federal loans in order to rebuild from flood damage. A few businesses were unable to find their footing again, however. The city's last farm, Creamer's Dairy, went bankrupt. The town of Fairbanks raised money to buy the farm and turn it into a bird sanctuary. St. Joseph's Hospital was also forced to close. The citizens of Fairbanks voted down the creation of a government run hospital twice before collecting 2.6 million dollars in private donations and 6 million dollars in state and federal funds to create the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. Overall, the town bounced back fairly quickly, and was named one of 11 "All-American Cities" by Look Magazine and the National League of Cities in 1968. 

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner announces "All-American City" status, 1968.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner announces "All-American City" status, 1968.

Related Pages:


Alaskafilmarchives. "1967 Fairbanks flood aerial view." YouTube. YouTube, 20 Sept. 2012. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

"Fairbanks Flood 1967." Fairbanks Flood 1967. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017. <http://www.rc135.com/0023/INDEX039.HTM>.

"Fairbanks 1967 flood photographs." University of Alaska Fairbanks. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

"Previous All-America City Winners." National Civic League. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.