South Bay Historical Society


The flood of 1916 was the worst natural disaster in the history of the South Bay. It has been blamed on Charles Hatfield, the infamous rainmaker who erected platforms near the Morena Reservoir Jan. 1, 1916, sending chemicals into the air that produced the rain that ended a four-year drought. Hatfield was not the only cause. The Weather Bureau said the rain came from several Pacific storms that converged at the same time on San Diego, an early version of today's El Niņo. Hatfield and the storms caused a massive amount of rain to fall during the last two weeks in January, more than has ever been recorded for two weeks in the history of the South Bay. All the river canyons in the county were flooded and every bridge destroyed. The Otay dam broke and a wall of water flooded the entire valley, destroying the town of Otay, the Salt Works and hundreds of farms. The Tijuana River overflowed and destroyed the town of Tijuana and the utopian village of Little Landers. The rain filled the Sweetwater Reservoir until the lower abutment gave way, as shown in the photo at right.

Don't miss the new exhibit in the Chula Vista Library on the Centennial of the Great Flood. Click Here
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