The Floods

Jan. 9-10, 1907

The worst storm in 23 years blew across Southern California with the force of a gale, dumping more than an inch of rain in Pasadena, killing an Orange County rancher, washing out railroad tracks, collapsing tunnels and leaving nearly every small ship in Santa Barbara sunk, driven ashore or pounded into kindling.

Floodwaters destroyed a railroad bridge under construction near Ventura, cutting off the Southern Pacific’s coastal rail service, and at Summerland, oil rigs along the shore were ripped to pieces. The San Fernando Valley was especially hard hit: The Times reports that a bridge over the Big Tujunga Wash was underwater and that the river was a mile wide and impassible. The roar of the Pacoima River can be heard two miles away, The Times says.

The Arroyo Seco tore out a railroad line and threw freight cars as if they were toys, carrying a torrent of trash and broken trees down from the mountains through Pasadena.

South of downtown, the Los Angeles River was at flood stage and threatening to destroy the 7th Street Bridge, where pedestrians were warned that they crossed at their own risk.

Many avenues were flooded from curb to curb and churning water threw aside heavy iron manhole covers and flowed from the storm sewers, turning streets (paved and unpaved) into rivers. Streetcars plying the flooded boulevards looked like ships sailing in canals and gallant conductors carried female passengers through the water to the curb.

A 75-year-old Santa Ana rancher was killed when the buggy in which he and his brother were riding was washed away as they tried to cross Santiago Creek. The horse panicked in the raging flood and the buggy overturned. Ralph Williams, who was visiting from the East, was able to grab a willow branch and save himself, but his brother Charles was carried downstream, where his body was eventually found.

“The fording of torrents on the hill streets has seemed fraught with peril,â€Â The Times says, “but the thousands of hardy adventurers, who have braved the currents all live to tell the tale. None has been swept away to a watery death in the many deep lakes which were formed about the city.â€Â

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