Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Huntington Beach and the 1938 flood

March 1938 was a bit soggier than March 2012, and the photos of said sogginess never fail to astound. There had been worse floods here in terms of sheer amount of water, but there were a lot fewer people (and no cameras) here when it happened. The photo above comes from Duane Wentworth, the son of my old friend, Huntington Beach City Historian Alicia Wentworth. The photo shows what's now Southeast Huntington Beach in the foreground, and old Downtown Huntington Beach and the oil fields in the background.

Duane writes, "Thought you might like this photo for the... site. ...For reference, the farm just left of center is Bushard and Indianapolis. This photo was in my mother's collection."

To make it easier to understand what we're looking at, I overlaid the locations major streets on the photo. You may want to zoom in on both the original and the edited version to see more details.
Search "flood" on this blog to find a bunch more information about the horrors of March 1938.


Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, my childhood home (had it been around in 1938) would have been just out of frame to the left (near Bushard and a few blocks south of Atlanta).

Chris Jepsen said...

I forget that you're ALSO a SEHB kid, Major. Eader Elementary?

Major Pepperidge said...

Yep. Can you believe that the mascot was the Eader Beaver (I'm not kidding!)??

Bob said...

I bought a framed print of that with the streets overlaid on it for $5.00 about 15 years ago from a small escrow company office that used to be at the corner of Bushard and Banning.

Anonymous said...

Great post and amazing picture. Thanks again Chris!

Did you know that 9,536 people (5.1% of the HB population) 3,946 homes (or 5.1% of HB homes) and 823 acres (or 5.1% of Huntington Beach) are only 1 ft above sea level today?

There is a a 1 in 6 chance of a sea level rise + storm surge + tide will overtop +1ft by 2020.

You can go to See the results of various sea levels for yourself. Just enter your zip and see where a 5 foot sea level rise puts the beach! Somewhere 'round Warner Ave and Edwards St.

From this web site I learned that a 5 foot surge would 51,807 HB people (27.6%) with 22,094 homes underwater (28.6%), covering 4,403 acres, leaving 27.0% of Huntington Beach underwater.

A 10 ft. ocean surge would put the edge of the new beach at Warner and Golden West.

Let me point out how this kind of historical information makes our local history pretty important to a lot of people. And something tells me that those tiny shallow concrete lined flood control ditches aren't going to help much...

- HB kid in exile on the east coast

Connie Moreno said...

Holy cow! I used to live about a block from where Beach meets Ellis and yes, thought of sunamis were always on the back of my mind!

outsidetheberm said...

Fascinating! Thanks, Chris.

Anonymous said...

It's probably just confusion from sequential postings but to clarify, the flooding in the photo is not from a tsunami, but rather is from watershed runoff in the times of pre-OC Flood Control channel. Beach and Ellis is currently outside the tsuanmi runup zone.

What climate change will wreak is what is addressed in the post from the HB Kid in Exile on the East Coast.

Chris Jepsen said...

Indeed, the flood of 1938 had nothing to do with tsunamis. It rained like cats and dogs for a long period of time, and the raging Santa Ana River blew through its banks, flooding a large swath of Orange County. There had been flood control channels throughout much of that area (e.g. the Newbert Protection District) since the turn of the century, but they couldn't begin to deal with that much water.

What protects us lowlanders today are the Prado Dam (which was already in the planning stages when the '38 flood hit), a channelized (in concrete) Santa Ana River that empties directly into the sea, and a system of expanded and beefed-up flood control channels. Will it be enough when the much-discussed "100-year flood" comes? Guess we'll find out.

As for climate change -- yes it seems things are changing. (Just ask my sinuses when the Santa Ana Winds blow in every third day or so.) But frankly, I'm dubious about explanations offered by weather experts who can't even tell me if it's going to going to rain on my picnic tomorrow.

In any case, we can be sure that climate change will continue to be used as a tool by politicians (and the corporations who own them) to generate fear, which in turn is a great tool for accruing more power and money.

Major: Yes, I know about the "Eader Beavers." I nearly was one, but ended up one school over and was a "Kettler Cougar." I guess "Cougar" now has sexual connotations too. Eventually all animal names will. ("Oh, man, check out the aardvarks on THAT babe!")

Steve S. said...

One real consideration is what the tide levels are at the time of the flooding.

A very high tide at the same period when torrential flash floods in the mountains are expelling out of the nearby mountains can really exacerbate the flooding situation.

Especially when elevations are roughly 7-10 ft. above sea level as Google Earth displayed for these Huntington Beach flooded blocks in the posted picture.

Marty M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marty M said...

I live exactly where that farm was on bushard /Yellowstone. i noticed the city installed end of tidal wave zone on Indianapolis a few blocks south of me so no worries i'm in the clear.
i'm curious to know who owned that farm on bushard /Indianapolis so if anybody has any information i sure would appreciate the info, i just love history.