Sunday, January 23, 2005

Concrete Straitjacket

Ever wonder why the Los Angeles River looks like nothing more than a huge ditch? Blame the Great Flood of 1938, which made our recent major rain storms look like drizzle.

As L.A. Times writer Cecilia Rasmussen recounts in today's paper, L.A. had seen floods before -- but nothing like the major 1938 event, which devastated the region:

The relentless five-day spate of rainstorms began Feb. 27, in late winter. The deluge collapsed bridges, buckled highways, overflowed rivers and dams and sent an airliner with nine aboard slamming into a mountain.

The Los Angeles, Santa Clara, San Gabriel, Rio Hondo and Santa Ana rivers flowed out of control. San Fernando Valley ranches flooded, as did roads there and elsewhere, forcing the postponement of the Academy Awards. Almost 2 feet of rain fell in the mountains, and more than a foot fell in the flatlands.

The flood killed more than 100 people, and left thousands homeless and scores missing. It was Southern California's deadliest flood of the 20th century.

As a result, she notes, "the devastation led to massive flood-control efforts, including a network of dams and canals, as well as concrete straitjackets for most Southland rivers."

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