#Lookback: Earth, Wind and Fire

    A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community, brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

    Friday, November 2, 1984 started as a normal day in Lander, but it would not stay normal for long.  About 2 pm a low pressure area (cyclonic weather system) moved over the valley causing high winds gusting at speeds close to 100 mph that ripped across the area.  At least two mobile homes were blown off their foundations, several sheds were tossed about, power lines were blown down, and many limbs and trees were trashed.  In a fifteen-minute span the rural fire department was summoned to seven different fires.  Rich Dowell, the Lander Rural fire chief, quickly realized he needed help and summoned the Lander, Hudson and Fort Washakie volunteer fire departments for mutual aid support.

    The worst fire was at Larry Christiansen’s house built on a ridge above Baldwin Creek; it had a roof blown off the garage which caused an electrical short and a fire.  The high winds fanned the fire, and when the rural fire department arrived just eight minutes after receiving the call the building was totally engulfed. Sixty firemen and 20 pieces of equipment from four fire departments were used to battle the blaze.  Several of the doors on fire equipment were detached or bent back from their vehicles by the winds.  Firefighters reported they were unable to stand upright against the wind and had to crawl with their hoses to try and fight the fire. To add to the misery, gravel size rocks and dirt were being picked up by the wind pummeling the fire fighters.    Embers from the main fire were blown as far as three quarters of a mile away and started several spot fires in the dry grass.  Larry’s house was a total loss, and seven or eight other homes nearby were threatened but escaped damage.

    Elsewhere in the county, a Tweed Lane shed caught on fire, and two vehicles were destroyed. Ten tons of hay were lost in a stack fire and a large wood pile was incinerated.  In Red Canyon, fifteen miles from Lander a trailer was ripped apart by the tornadic winds.  Residents in Lander and the surrounding area were asked not to use their fireplaces and wood stoves for fear embers from the chimneys would start more fires.   

    As night fell the winds died down and people started to assess the damage, started to clean up, and filed insurance claims, but nature’s fury was not done. About 2:30 the next morning Lander began to shake.  A loud roaring sound woke many residents of Lander up from a sound sleep and soon a tremor was felt in the valley.  It measured 5.0 on the Richter scale and was centered around Louis Lake.  Two hours earlier there had been a quake in Teton National Park. The Sheriff’s department in Lander received more than 150 phone calls about the earthquake in Lander.

    Don Detimore was in residence at the Wyoming Highway Department barn on South Pass which was closer to the epicenter of the quake.  He said, “It shook things up pretty good. It was a terrible noise, a real loud rumble.  It tilted some pictures and knocked some books down.” He estimated it lasted about 30 seconds and was followed by 5 to 6 aftershocks.

    Sue Beisheim, a secretary for the Lander Police, felt the quake. “It sounded awful. It sounded like a tornado coming.  The roar was awful,” she described.  She reported her horses were running in circles before the quake and her neighbor’s cat was yowling outside her window before she felt the quake.  They seemed to sense something was about to happen.  

    Damage from the earthquake appears to have been minimal, but 50 buildings in Lander and surrounding areas reported cracked walls, foundations and broken windows.  Dams and bridges had to be inspected to assure their safety.  A 5.0 quake on the Richter scale can do considerable damage.  Lander and the surrounding areas were lucky.

    Author: Liz Farmer

    Next up for the Fremont County Museum

    May 28, 7pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Lander’s Governor-Lester Hunt: Blackmail & Suicide-70 Years ago” Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    June 3, 7pm at the Pioneer Museum, “The Arapaho Covered Wagon Redux” Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    June 4, 7pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Libby Flats: Book Launch and Signing” Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

    Call the Dubois Museum 1-307-455-2284, the Pioneer Museum 1-307-332-3339 or the Riverton Museum 1-307-856-2665 for detail regarding their programs.

    The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum need your financial support.  In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years.  Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

    Related Posts

    Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?