The Los Angeles flood of 1938 was a catastrophic event that left a lasting impression on the city. Between 113 and 115 people died as a result of the floods, and the destruction spread across the length and breadth of the river. In Universal City, 250 feet of concrete razed the Lankershim Boulevard Bridge along with a coffee shop, ten houses and the Lakeside Golf Course. On the west side, the waters swallowed up eight square miles of Venice around Venice Boulevard, Washington Street, Brooks Avenue, Trolley Way and Mildred Avenue.
The Red Cross evacuated 800 men, women and children in the area early in the morning of March 2.Long Beach witnesses saw ten people, including a small boy, four men, three sailors and two women, fall into the water over a wooden pedestrian bridge. The disaster killed 144 people and left the county with repairs that lasted years, leading to planning ways to control this unpredictable strip of nature. Rowmen from the canals rescued trapped residents who couldn't escape in time.The intense sediment content of the floods buried roads and streets in the area, stopping traffic for many days. The Little Rock dam nearly collapsed during the flood, while another dam in Pickens Canyon produced releases so large that it flooded Lancaster's Roosevelt district.
Los Angeles County General Hospital was threatened by increased flooding, which had flooded the hospital's power generator.More than 20 structures were destroyed in the Arroyo Seco canyon, but there were no fatalities there. The Los Angeles Times chartered a United Air Lines passenger plane to provide them with an aerial view of flood damage. For the second day of rain, the official weather forecast reported that Los Angeles and the surrounding area will be disturbed by rain on Monday and probably Tuesday, an underestimation for the ravages ahead.In total, the 1938 flood was responsible for the destruction of 5,601 houses, damaged another 1,500, killed more than 110 people and left more than 800 cars stranded. When we think of ways to revitalize the Los Angeles River today, it's important to understand the power of the river, which can be unexpectedly destructive.The 1938 flood was also responsible for accelerating plans to channelize the Los Angeles River, specifically to accelerate the flow of flood waters to the sea.
Because of its location between the Pacific Ocean and the high San Gabriel Mountains, the Los Angeles Basin is subject to flash floods caused by heavy orographic rainfall from Pacific storms that hit the mountains.Between February 27 and 28, 1938, a storm from the Pacific Ocean moved inland into the Los Angeles Basin, running east to the San Gabriel Mountains. Floods swept away an incomplete Hansen Dam, escaped from its normal channel in Tujunga Creek and flowed from Van Nuys to Lankershim Boulevard and directly into the Los Angeles River. In memory of this disaster that led to adoption of flood control measures, this is part two in a four-part series exploring safety and responsibility on the Los Angeles River.In total, 108,000 acres (44,000 ha) were flooded in Los Angeles County. The most affected area was San Fernando Valley where many communities had been built during economic boom of 1920s in low-lying areas that were once used for agriculture.
Flood control structures prevented destruction of parts of Los Angeles County while Orange and Riverside Counties suffered more damage.The Los Angeles Department of Public Works recommends mitigation actions for these properties in a report called Repetitive Loss Analysis. It is important to understand power of the Los Angeles River, which can be unexpectedly destructive when we think about ways to revitalize it today.