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St. Francis Dam Disaster Commemoration Event, Free on Zoom

March 12, 2021 @ 4:00 pm 5:00 pm

Rancho Camulos National Historic Landmark officials will host a virtual presentation commemorating the March 12, 1928, St. Francis Dam Disaster via Zoom on Friday, March 12, starting at 4 p.m.

Jon Wilkman, author of “Floodpath” (Amazon 2016 Book of the Year), and Ann Stansell, historical researcher and archeologist, are set to be special guest panelists.

Join the panelists as they explore the story of the largest man-made disaster in California history and its lasting impact on the Santa Clara River Valley.

We will also highlight the Camulos connections within the compelling story and provide ample opportunity to answer questions from the audience.

Advance questions may also be sent to [email protected] Please put “St. Francis Dam” in the subject line.

  • Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81513507400
  • Meeting ID: 815 1350 7400
  • Passcode: 835760

The Dam Disaster

The former dam in San Francisquito Canyon, part of the L.A. City aqueduct system, collapsed just before midnight Monday, March 12, 1928. Nearly 13 billion gallons of water rushed over sleepy residents from Saugus to the sea. An estimated 411 people perished in the flood. It was California’s second-deadliest disaster after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Here’s an excerpt from dam historian Alan Pollack’s “St. Francis Dam Disaster: An Extended Timeline” from the SCV History website:

“March 13, 1928, 12:03 a.m: Five minutes after the St. Francis Dam’s collapse, the now-120-foot-high (37 m) flood wave, having traveled 1-1/2 miles (2.4 km) at an average speed of 18 mph (29 km/h), destroys the heavy concrete Powerhouse No. 2 — leaving only two turbines — and claims the lives of 64 of the 67 workmen and their family members who lived nearby.

“Lyman and Lillian Curtis notice a strange mist in the air and conclude the dam has collapsed. Lillian, her son Danny and the family dog head for high ground while husband Lyman goes back into the house to gather daughters Marjorie and Mazie. Only Lillian and Danny survive.

“Ray Rising, a utility man from the powerhouse, also is awakened and faces a 10-story-high wall of water. Swept into the floodwaters, he manages to climb onto a floating rooftop, which transports him to safety. He is the only other survivor at this power plant.”