Remembering the epic 1977 flood that wreaked havoc and death on Kansas City

Photography courtesy of The Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections

As told by Curt Diebel, owner of Diebel’s Sportsmens Gallery:

“We had multiple days of rain going into this, so the ground was saturated. The actual event was a hurricane-like drenching that started after dark. My wife and I were at the Royals game, so I want to say it started, like, eight o’clock or something. We were in the middle of the game.

My wife and I actually stayed at the game because we’d befriended one of the Royals players and we’d often hang around afterwards and talk to him, go get a beer. We did that night—we went to go get a beer. We were still in the stadium, he came up and said, ‘Let’s go across the street to the Ramada Inn or whatever.’ My car was out in the parking lot. He parked close, being a player. He said, ‘Listen, let me get my car and I’ll take you to your car.’ All I had to do was get from the passenger seat of his car, open my door, and get into my car. And when I stepped out onto the pavement, in the middle of the Royals parking lot, the water ran over my foot, as though I had stepped into a creek. That’s something that always stuck out to me. Like, holy cow, there is something odd going on here.

What was said was that there was as much water flowing down the creek that night as the normal flow in the Missouri River. That kind of gives it perspective, right? I had grown up on that creek, so I’d seen plenty of flooding through the years, but that was really something.

We weren’t even aware the flooding had occurred. We were in the basement bar at this hotel, the power went off, they brought candles. We sat there for a couple hours. At about eleven o’clock, we decided to head home.

When we got into the car, we’d had the radio on from the pre-game broad-cast. It was KMBZ, and they immediately went to the local broadcaster, who was Scott Kilgore at the time. I looked at my wife and said, ‘Well, that’s odd—there’s national news at the top of the hour, and they go immediately to Kansas City.’ He was describing the flooding and we had no idea. We were totally in the dark sitting at that hotel.

My dad comes by the next morning, and we head on down to the Plaza. I can remember driving on the South side of Brush Creek, directly across from where our store is now, and we could see the damage.

My dad started our store in 1954, so we’ve been on the Plaza for sixty-eight years. Our store was in a different location. We didn’t suffer from the flood directly—the store that’s where we are now did. It was six feet deep here. When we moved down to our current location, in my back room, which is five steps below street level, there was grass still growing on the ceiling. It would not surprise me if there’s still some grass growing there.

The one thing that I have always remembered: There used to be a post office on the block where I am now. They had a short wall and then a large picture window. And hanging there, half in, half out, was a car. But that isn’t what got my attention: It was the car on top of that car that got my attention.”

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