French Creek RV Campground hit hard

By: 
Norma Najacht
On Friday afternoon, as Diane Olson was making burgers for the Friday evening barbecue that has become a tradition at French Creek RV Campground in Custer, she wondered how she should say the prayer before the meal.
Psalm 118:24 came to mind: This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
“So I said it,” she says. “And 10 minutes later, we had this. I assume God told me to say that.”
This refers to the flash flood that inundated the campground situated along French Creek that Diane manages and where she lives.
She had gotten prior warning at about 5 or 5:30 p.m. that day about the possibility of high water when emergency management in Rapid City had called to tell her there had been two inches of rain in Custer and six inches just west of town.
Living along the creek, high water was nothing new to Diane, but she knew, because of the recent rains, that the ground was soft and saturated back by the creek. So she told the people with RVs by the creek to move them, fearing that they might get stuck.
When she went back to cooking for the barbecue, she noticed the water in the creek was rising.
“We prayed and started to eat,” she says. “I looked at my watch. It was 5:40 p.m. when everything broke loose and then it went fast.”
Diane noticed a sliding glass window was open in the house and water was barreling in. By the time she got that closed, the water in the living room was mid-calf, but above her knees in the furnace room.
“I was inside worrying about my stuff,” she says.”I knew there was no stopping it. I looked out the window to the west and the water was just boiling.”
Diane stayed inside because she knew the water was deeper outside than it was  inside.
She noticed that Richard Poppleton’s SUV was parked in front of the shower house and it looked like he was going to move it, but he couldn’t get in. 
“He was standing there holding on when the car started to move,” she recalls. “I thought he was going to go down with the car. I prayed again, ‘Lord, don’t let him die!’”
Diane noticed Richard’s wife was standing on the porch watching. When she started to go after him, everybody hollered to her to stay put.
Somehow Richard got off the car, but another camper, Tim Fadness, got caught in the current and got caught by the car, which had lost its moorings and was moving along with the fast-moving current.
“Tim hung on and the car went away with him on it,” Diane remembers. “Someone saw him jump off and swim for the other side. I had no idea what happened to him, but over an hour later I saw him by the courthouse. Of course, I was praying some more.”
When a Custer fire truck drove up to the porch to rescue people, Diane told her rescuers she would stay put. 
“They told me it was mandatory, that I couldn’t stay,” she says.
The problem was, the floor had buckled so the door wouldn’t open and Diane couldn’t get out. Her rescuers tore out a screen and Diane went out the window, grabbing a toothbrush and two Bibles — one she keeps in her purse and an old one that had been given to her by her grandmother when she was a little girl.
But her ordeal wasn’t quite over.
“When they took me out of the house, it felt like the current was going to take my legs out from under me and I was going to go right under the fire truck,” she says. “But they had ahold of me. I don’t know how they could stand up in it.”
Diane stayed at her son’s home that night and the next day she was cleaning up the mud on the floors, assessing the damage and fixing lunch for the campers.
 

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