The following is a transcription of an article that appeared in the La Verne Leader, Friday, March 4, 1938. The photo was not a part of the original article and is from the La Verne Police Department's collection.
La Verne Leader
LA VERNE, LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
Friday, March 4, 1938
LA VERNE HIT BY FLOOD WATER
Car Washed Down Firey Ave. by Torrent
Business Held at Stand-Still as Water Makes Shopping Impossible; San Dimas Canyon Dam Overflows Spillway; Puddingstone Sets New Record.
With water surging through the business district and streets of the residence section, La Verne was inundated by four days of flood which caused and on unestimable amount of damage.
Business in La Verne was practically at a standstill for three days, with only meager transactions being made. Delivery systems from stores were taxed to capacity.
Water which is usually diverted around the city by means of a flood channel passing through the Peyton Corporation grove was released through the business district, flooding D, E, and F streets to the curbs, and late Wednesday all business houses on D street and Third had to be sand-bagged and dyked. Much of the water which flooded Third Street came from E St., but this intersection was dammed late Wednesday evening, throwing a torrent of water directly down E Street and making it impassable by motorists. Homes on the west side of the street were surrounded by water.
Man Washed Two Blocks in Car
A 1937 Pontiac sedan stalled while attempting to cross Firey Ave. at Fourth street, Wednesday afternoon, was washed down the street by the force of the water to the Santa Fe railroad tracks, where it lodged and was almost completely submerged by mud and water. The driver stayed in the car as it was washed two blocks, but jumped for his life as the car started to overturn.
Early Wednesday morning two sheriffs from the San Dimas substation were stalled in the Firey Avenue crossing at Third Street, while attempting to ford the torrent, and were pulled out before being washed away.
Numerous trees were undermined and fell across roads and power lines in the city. At the south corner of D and Second streets, a large umbrella tree crashed, and another tree on Walnut Ave. was reported to have fallen across power lines.
Nine drunks arrested in 24 hours
Practically all homes in the Seventh street region, as well as those south of town were virtually surrounded by water. The entire region along Third street from Firey Avenue to Bonita Union high school was under water, and traffic crawled at a snail’s pace.
In the twenty-four hour period from Tuesday night to Wednesday night nine drunks were reported by the La Verne police department. One car carrying a drunken man attempted to ford Firey Avenue, but stalled. When the drunk realized that he was in the middle of the flood, he opened the door, rolling into the swirling water. Quick action by his companions and Officer P. F. Canaday saved him from being washed down the street by the force of the current.
Traffic regulations were practically disregarded by La Verne motorists, as necessity altered man-made laws. Most all cars parking in the business district drove onto the sidewalk to avoid backing the water up in the deeper gutters, causing it to wash into store buildings. Other cars acted as ferries, carrying people across flooded streets.
La Verne Practically Isolated
All traffic attempting to enter La Verne had to be routed by way of Foothill Blvd. on the north or by the County Fair grounds on the south, since Firey Ave. on the West and Fulton road on the east were carrying water to capacity and impassable. Numerous cars were stuck in mud about town. One car, belonging to E.D. Watts, was buried to the running boards when it got off the alley back of the La Verne Electric Co. Another car mired to the axle just south of the Post Office when it tried to climb up into the parking. Another car dropped into a deep hole in front of the Texaco Service Station on Third St. The hole was caused by rushing water.
About $3,000 damage was estimated in San Dimas canyon, where numerous slides either had blocked the road, or it had been washed completely out. No entrance was possible into the canyon after 2:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, because of a large slide across the road. It was reported that 35,000 inches of water was being released from the dam all day Wednesday, but water levels raised until it overflowed the spillway.
Steep canyon walls were converted into actual waterfalls, dumping large volumes of water into the channel in the canyon below. A near capacity flow of water was being thrown into the flood control channel which empties behind Puddingstone dam. At the point where the water is released from the concrete channel at Puddingstone, the pressure was so great that the water was forced into the air higher than the channel itself.
Puddingstone Dam Sets Record
Water behind the Puddingstone dam was standing at the 54 foot level on Thursday afternoon, and a continued rise is expected as water is released from behind San Dimas and Live Oak dams. The lake has spread out in the basin until some of the trees in the citrus grove to the east are completely submerged. The basin now holds more water than ever before. Rivers of water are running into the reservoir from the flood control channels, the Pomona hills and the run-off passing through La Verne.
Pedestrian travel was almost impossible about the city. Practically all pedestrian planks were washed away and wading was the only possible way of crossing streets. College students, reduced to walking, donned shorts and walked bare foot, or wore boots about the school. No great damage was reported by the college, other than several severe leaks in the dormitory roof. The campus was under water for several hours, but water was kept out of basements, it was reported.
City Receives No Mail Service
Practically no mail entered or left La Verne all day Wednesday, and Thursday, since transportation facilities throughout the southland were disrupted by washouts. Electric lights were off in La Verne for several hours, and telephone communications were interrupted from time to time.
With semi-clearing skies yesterday morning, business men worked most of the day digging mud and debris from in front of their stores. A layer of mud an inch deep was deposited in the doorways on the south side of Third street, making pedestrian travel hazardous. Several inches of silt was deposited over sections of the City Park, which was turned into a lake Wednesday evening.
Although greatly inconvenienced, the people of La Verne assumed a jovial attitude as they cleared the debris, and prepared to open the town again for normal business.
New Year Flood of 1934 Does Less Damage Locally
The heavy rains of January 1934, and the rains of 1916, and one other are perhaps the only rainfalls that can be compared to that of the present week, according to any records available here. A. R. Peck, former Santa Fe agent, who had kept records of the rainfall year from 1888 until he was quoted in the La Verne leader in January, 1916, stated that “the recent rain of 10.08 inches was the heaviest rain for any one storm with the possible exception” of fifteen years before when ten inches fell in a day and a night.
In the flood of Jan. 17 and 18, 1916, the Leader files show that all railroad connection was broken for two or three days by washouts of many bridges and tracks. Thompson Creek and Live Oak Canyon both poured flood waters through the city, flooding especially the residence section at the west end. A torrent went down Firey Ave. and the Houdyshel and adjoining places were flooded. Especially heavy damage was done by Live Oak water to the groves of Hayes Wheeler, the Abbott grove (now owned by Will Gillette), F. G. Rosa, Hall, and Dr. Clark groves, where flood water carried out orange trees and ruined three or more acres of valuable orange groves. Pomona also suffered heavily in his storm.
The rainfall which did immense damage at Montrose and La Crescenta on the last day of December, 1933 and January 1, 1934, probably recorded the largest rainfall for a single 24-hour period. The measurement here was 9.66 inches. While immense damage was done elsewhere, very little loss was suffered in La Verne and vicinity.
The present storm was broken by a bright day on Tuesday, followed by a heavy downpour Tuesday night and Wednesday. It is possible that the total 11.19 inches is the heaviest rain for a single storm as it may be regarded, since records have been kept here.
The opening of the ditch passing through the Evergreen Ranch, and the opening of the flood gates of Live Oak dam sent the flood waters through the main streets of La Verne, the greater volume passing down E street and then west mainly on Fifth, Fourth and Third to D, where sand bags were necessary to protect the business houses from the flood.
Rainfall Recorded on LEADER Gauge
Monday 1.52 2.52
Tuesday 1.77 4.29
Wednesday 5.44 9.73
Thursday 1.46 11.19
Total for season to date 24.15
Last Season 23.11
Using fire hose to clean the 2300 block of D Street