Monday, February 18, 2008

Los Angeles' 1958 Flood

This time 50 years ago, torrential rains turned many Los Angeles streets into rivers (what, again?) Nothing is new under the sun. . . or the clouds, in this case.

The first picture was taken at Sepulveda and Centinela on February 20, 1958. The man wading through water is Hank Pilgian, and his car had just been swept away.

It's too dark to see a freeway overpass, so the orientation of the photo is not clear. Just kidding; I don't think the 405 existed in the area until 1961.

The day before, downtown flooded as well. Boulders and debris tumbled onto the Pasadena freeway from Elysian Park, blocking three onramps. A million dollars was the estimated damage as February 19th drew to a close. The Times reported that a storm drain broke at the Standard Oil farm in El Segundo and ran pictures of a waterfall tumbling over broken Grand Avenue.

Families were evacuated from homes in pockets of Gardena, Torrance, Hawthorne & Lawndale, Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan Beach, and Bellflower. Gaffey St. in San Pedro was underwater. Schools closed in the San Fernando Valley.

In Los Angeles, Wilshire between 6th and Alexandria was 6 feet deep in water when a storm drain backed up. A hundred employees of the Richfield Oil Company on Mariposa at 6th St. had to leave their flooded basement offices through the windows. Telephone company offices on Vermont and the Chrysler Corp. building at Eastern and Slauson had to close down and sent everyone home (wonder how that worked? If you building is flooded, what are the odds of 3500 people getting into their cars and driving away?)

So there you have it. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria.

Weather forecasters said there was only a "1 in 5 chance" of rain on the 20th; they erred.

This last picture is of Ballona Creek, taken from Overland Ave. in Culver City, Feb. 20, 1958. As usual, the pictures are plundered from, the Los Angeles Public Library online photo collection.


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