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Dam fails

January 28, 2018 Uncategorized  0

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January 28, 1916 Evening Tribune

The San Diego Union-Tribune will mark its 150th anniversary in 2018 by presenting a significant front page from the archives each day throughout the year.

In January 1916, rain began to fall in San Diego after a long drought. By the time it stopped, some parts of the county soaked up as much as 30 inches, dams failed and more than 20 people died. The text of this story in the Evening Tribune contains spelling errors, possibly a sign of how hastily the Extra edition was put together.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the story:

SWEETWATER DAM IS BROKEN BY FLOODS

EIGHT FOOT CUT MADE IN NORTH END BY FLOODS

An eight-foot cut in the north side of the Sweetwater dam went out this forenoon. The escape of this water greatly relieved the situation, as it takes great pressure form the south side of the dam, where the earth is soft and had the break started there might have proved more series, according to H.A. Cameron, of the San Diego Land corporation, which controls the Sweetwater properties.

Mr Cameron said he was unable to verify any reports that the dam was in greater danger or that the Otay had overflowed. John E. Boal, vice president and general manager of the Sweetwater company, he said, was somewhere in the valley and there was no means of communication. According to Camron, Mr. and Mrs. R.C. Allen are at their home on the Bonita ranch entirely surrounded by the flood. They are doing their best to save their fruit ranch and other effects.

The Sweetwater company also has its employes at work endavoring to save fruit trees, fruit boxes and piles of fruit from going into the bay in heavy flood. Considerable fruit was picked and was ready to be shipped when the flood came and it is feared that the loss to the lemon growers will be almost as heavy the freeze of several years ago.

With the water pouring out at one side, Mr. Carson believes there will be no further break in the main structure of the Sweetwater dam.

The flood situation from National City south is becoming worse, according to reports received from National City.

National City and Chula Vista residents are without drinking water. They have been without all day as the water pipers were washed away last night. At Sweetwater Junction the river rose seven feet in twenty minutes. This gives the National City people their belief that the entire top of the Sweetwater dam is gone. The Sweetwater company yesterday sent 100 men to the dam to save it if possible.

At noon city officials were unable to receive any information whatever pertaining to the Lower Otay dam.

A report that the fifteen-foot upper structure on the dam that was completed several years ago had been carried away, was made to Sheriff Ralph Conklin today by a man who stated to the officer that he had with difficult made his way from the scene of the break this morning. The report was made to the sheriff on a trip of inspection in that section he made today.

“I did not ask the man his name, he seemed to be very certain of what he was talking about and to be familiar with the Sweetwater dam and valley,” stated the sheriff. “The man said the whole top of the dam had gone out last night at some time and that the valley was filled with a raging torrent that swept out the three bridges across the Sweetwater river and the valley presented an appearance, from the description, similar to that of the Mission valley at the height of the flood season of the San Diego river,” continued the sheriff.

“My informant,” said the sheriff, told me that the Bonito store and postoffice and all other buildings in the valley had been swept away. Both of the city water pipe lines from the Otay dam have also been swept away. A long stretch of the Arizona railway track has been washed out, it was stated, and the water completely covers the whole section around the old Sweetwater race track, the track being entirely under water.”

“If that big section of the Sweetwater dam has been carried away it would fully account for the damage that is reported.” stated County Surveyor George Butler today. “It would make a tremendous volume of water that would fill that whole valley.”

View anniversary front pages online at sandiegouniontribune.com/150-years. For more from the Union-Tribune digital archives, go to newslibrary.com/sites/sdub. Searching is free, with registration. A fee is required to view full stories.

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