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St Francis Dam Disaster Print E-mail
Written by Kevin   
Sunday, 17 October 2004

Pre-Disaster Dam75 years ago the Los Angeles Area suffered one of the worst disasters in the state's history -- second only to San Francisco's great earthquake and fire in 1906. The St. Francis Dam and reservoir, located approximately 50 miles north of Los Angeles, was intended to serve as a backup supply of water in case the flow of water from the Los Angeles aqueduct was interrupted. Built by William Mulholland from 1924 -1926, the reservoir held nearly 13 billion gallons of water enough to supply Los Angeles for an entire year. However, shortly before midnight on March 12, 1928, the dam suddenly collapsed, sending a huge wall of water, mud and debris hurtling down the Santa Clara river valley towards the Pacific Ocean, 54 miles away. In the end over 450 lives were lost and as much as $25 million worth of livestock and property was washed away.

Post-Disaster DamOn Sunday March 16th, the city of Santa Paula remembered the 75th anniversary of the St. Francis Dam Disaster with a presentation including accounts from the survivors / witnesses of the disaster and the unveiling of a Memorial statue entitled "The Warning" depicting two of the officers who raced to warn residents of the coming flood.

To see pictures from this event please see my St. Francis 75th Anniversary Memorial photo gallery. Here you will find pictures from the days events, as well as pictures taken at the St. Francis Dam Disaster Exhibit in the California Oil Museum in Santa Paula. I have also included on the left a link to the Program of the Day that was given out to the crowd and detailed the activities that took place on March 16th, 2003.

Dam Site Today

Amazingly, little has been written about this tragedy, and the events that led up to this fateful event. However some of the books that have focused on this subject have been the best that I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

Man-Made Disaster Book CoverMan-Made Disaster: The Story of the St. Francis Dam, sticks out as the most poignant writings on the event.? While the books covers all aspects of the disaster, why it was built and what made it fail, it primarily focuses on the stories of the people who lived through the disaster.? I read this book, which I found at my local library, nearly 10 years ago and have been looking for a copy of my own ever since.? Originally released in 1963 (with only 1000 copies made), it was revised and re-released in a second edition in 1977 (5000 copies made).? Now, at the 75th anniversary of the event, the revised edition of the book has been reprinted by the original publishing company, The Arthur H. Clark Company. Available in both paperback, and a limited hardcover edition (only 500 copies made!). For details on ordering this book, click on the book cover to the left. For those of you in the Southern California area, you can pickup a paperback copy at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. I have also found copies available at, The Historical Society of Southern California, and at The Ventura County Museum of History and Art.

St. Francis Dam Disaster Revisited Book CoverThe St. Francis Dam Disaster: Revisited, without a doubt has to be the second best book available on the event. The book is broken into 4 articles, the first written by J. David Rodgers reviews the geological and engineering reasons for the failure. The second is an articlem written by Catherine Mulholland, is a short biography of Willam Mulholland and details her Grandfather's life before, during, and after the disaster.? The third article by Charles N. Johnson is a photographic essay of the disaster.? And the fourth and final article is a short biography of Charles F. Outland, the author of Man-Made Disaster, wirtten by Abraham Hoffman. This book has also been made available by The Arthur H. Clark Company. For details on ordering from them click on the book cover on the left. Once again, for those of you fortunate to be in the Southern California area, you can pickup a copy at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena.? This books is also currently available at, The Historical Society of Southern California, and at The Ventura County Museum of History and Art.




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