On Hebgen Lake a widow in her seventies, who ran a lodge and boat rental, didn’t know what was happening when her house began to shake. She knew she needed to get out and made her way to the front door, but found it jammed. Trapped and with no other immediate exit, she kicked the door down. Just outside she found a 5-foot crevice blocking her escape. Undeterred, the widow leapt across the gap just as her house dropped beneath her into the lake. The next morning she was rescued and saw her 9-room home floating in the lake.
A California couple camping along the Madison River was nearly drowned. A huge surge of water from the earthquake trapped them inside their small trailer. Their only escape from the rising water was to climb out onto the roof through a vent in the ceiling. Just when they thought they’d made it to safety, the trailer lifted and was swept away. They held on as it rushed downstream, finally stopping when it lodged on some rocks. But the water continued to rise, so they abandoned the trailer for a nearby pine tree. With each step higher into the tree its branches would get smaller, eventually giving way to their weight and dumping into the water. Struggling, the two would climb their way back up into the tree each time. Onlookers spotted the pair, but were unable to help until a man from Virginia City, Montana had an idea. He inflated an air mattress and used it to cross the water in lieu of a boat. After five hours in the tree, the couple was rescued.
At Duck Creek the operator of a lodge was startled by the quake and immediately jumped from his bed. In a frenzy, he dashed out the front door of his home unclothed and ran to warn guests renting cabins on his property. His wife followed, running out of the house onto the front porch, which suddenly collapsed, dropping into their basement. She survived, climbing out and immediately jumping into her car. She didn’t stop driving until she reached Bozeman, Montana 90-miles away.
A family staying at a motel on Highway 287 was so frightened by the earthquake that they piled into their car in their pajamas and attempted to flee. Unaware that several large sections of the highway were ripped up by the quake, they drove their car full-speed directly off a 6-foot scrap. The vehicle plummeted off the cliff and rolled over on the ground below. Amazingly the family survived with only minor injuries. Crawling from the wreckage, they walked back to the motel they’d just left. Others attempting to flee were forced to return as well. Roads were impassable due to large crevices and scraps. Most were trapped in the area for several days and some spent their time aiding the wounded. Other survivors were hysterical. One man refused help stating he wouldn’t leave, “until he could find his teeth.”
Overall, the severity of the casualties was noted by a local doctor. He found one survivor had done her best to aid the injured by placing 16 seriously wounded people into the back of several station wagons and a fishing trailer. Among the casualties he found a woman whose arm had been nearly severed in two places. Her chest had been crushed by falling rocks and she also suffered a severe blow to the head. Another man had a broken collar bone and deep lacerations over 90 percent of his legs. There was a girl with a crushed ankle, a woman with a broken back and a child who required 32 stitches to close a wound over her eye.