Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Flooding in Orange County

Life is full of coincidences. The Orange County Archives recently received a lot of great photos from the old County Flood Control Dept. (now part of Public Works). No sooner had I scanned some of the better images than the skies opened up on us!
Anyway, here are a few of my favorite images from the newly aquired materials. The image above shows the evacuation of the "Mexican quarter" at 4th St. and Artesia in Santa Ana during the 1916 flood.
The image below was taken March 3, 1938 "at 5th Street, west of the Santa Ana River, looking west" in Santa Ana. It shows the old KVOE ("Voice of the Orange Empire") radio station at right, and an "auto lot" in the background. Today, the 1938 flood is certainly the best-remembered "big flood" in O.C.
(By the way, if you can't reach the Archives by phone or email this week, you can blame that on stormy weather, too. Let's just say the storms are creating more than a few headaches for us.)
I was totally amazed when I first saw the photo above. It's an image of the Orange County town of La Jolla in the aftermath of the 1937 flood. That's right, 1937 was a flood year too, but the magnitude of what happened in 1938 made people sort of forget about the year before. In fact, in 1938, La Jolla was all but washed away by the Santa Ana River when it broke through its banks. The photo above provides some truly ominous foreshadowing.
The photo below shows the Pacific Electric Railway bridge over the mouth of the Santa Ana River during the 1927 flood. A note attached reads: "Thousand foot channel when impounded flood waters broke through to the Ocean. The Coast Blvd. [PCH] and P.E. Railroad suffered extreme damage as shown." Indeed, we're seeing the River cut a path directly to the ocean (as it does today), rather than turning southeast to empty into Newport Bay the way it once did.
Hope you're staying safe and dry this week.


The Viewliner Limited said...

Great pictures Chris. This is truly crazy weather were having. I'm up in the high desert and its snowing.

CoxPilot said...

I remember my Grandparents photo during the flood of '38, of their 1929 Hudson in the driveway of their home at 863 S. Claudina St. in Anaheim. The water was up to the center of the wheels. If you know about those old Hudsons, that was REALLY high.

Lloyd Dobler said...

I really love your blog. It's like a walk through my own personal timeline.

Roy Bauer said...

Love your blog too, but, dude, since when is La Jolla in OC? Was there another La Jolla?

Chris Jepsen said...

La Jolla was a small community (mainly made up of Mexican agricultural laborers and their families), near the outside bend of the Santa Ana River. It was directly in the path of destruction when the river burst out of its banks.

Anonymous said...

Ah, that makes sense. Is there any documentation of their community and life? Again, love your blog. Keep up the good work! -BvT

Anonymous said...

My dad and his family lived in the Mexican colony of La Jolla during the 1938 OC flood. The school principal, Mr. Whitten, at, La Jolla School (later renamed McFadden School & today Melrose), is responsible for saving many of their lives. After the storm, the people of La Jolla collected coins and purchased a wristwatch to show their gratitude to their local hero, Mr. Whitten.

Anonymous said...

My grandparents told me about the 1938 flood in Atwood thay ran up the hill on lakeview and orangethorpe when thay looked back thay seen there house go with the water.It rained for two weeks straght without stopping when the flood hit.