Friday, February 17, 2017

Vintage Photo Friday, 1963 - DISASTER

December 15, 1963. Photo by John Malmin, L.A. Times. Aerial photo taken from inside the Baldwin Hills Dam shows the collapsed section in the north wall

All of this rain and this flooding that we're experiencing right now reminds me of the Baldwin Hills Reservoir disaster of 1963. I remember it vividly, Local TV station, KTLA covered the event live from their camera in the sky. KTLA was one of the first TV stations to employ cameramen in helicopters to get overviews of news events.
The dam walls had been cracking for days. People were warned early because the engineers noticed a small breach in the dam. Homes were evacuated in the area. Many peoples' lives were saved before the disaster struck. There is a good description of the area on THIS BLOG. Read it!
December 14, 1963. Photo from LA Public Library Collection. Igal Treibatch has his jeans rolled up as he's standing on a Ford Fairlane, waiting for his rescue in the flooded waters from the Baldwin Hills Dam

I remember sitting in our breakfast room in the early evening, glued to KTLA, watching our little portable TV as the disaster unfolded with my brother, Ken and his friend Eddie. Mom was in the kitchen preparing dinner. We couldn't believe our eyes! All that water was flooding the area. We had friends that lived there. My Dad was very familiar with the area because he had supplied many of the homes built in the late 1950s and early 1960s with doors and wardrobes. It wasn't all that far from our duplex on South Bedford Drive, Beverly Hills, only about 5 miles away!
December, 1963. Herald Examiner. LAPL Photo Collection. Neighbors stand beside a newly carved gorge in the 3900 block of Cloverdale Ave. This house was the first one hit by the cascading water from the Reservoir. The house was washed away. Only the retaining wall in the background and the concrete pad remain. A section of the road hangs over the gorge.

The aftermath of the flood was terrible. Many homes, apartments and stores were gone.   The dam spilled 300 million gallons of water into the hillsides that swept away houses and cars. Three people died.  The Reservoir was never rebuilt. It turns out that it had been built on top of an earthquake fault and the nearby Inglewood oil field had been over-exploited, weakening the ground around the Reservoir. The area where the dam was located is now Kenneth Hahn State Park. It's a beautiful park, lush and filled with people enjoying the recreational facilities and hiking paths. I've been to the park a few times and I always get a chill, thinking about the disaster in 1963.
2015. Larry at Kenneth Hahn State Park

Stay safe this weekend, my fellow Angelenos! Prepare for disaster.

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