Monday, April 25, 2016

Remembering the St. Francis Dam

I'm not going to spend a lot of time pointing out the obvious. Anyone who's been following the pubic works debate should find something of interest in this Newsweek article:

Eighty-eight years ago, the St. Francis Dam burst in the middle of a March night, killing nearly 500 people [431 according to Wikipedia -- MP]. There are some images of the aftermath, but numbers tell the story better: 12.4 billion gallons of water rising to the furious height of 140 feet, surging 54 miles to the Pacific Ocean, an inland tsunami 2 miles wide leveling towns in its path. Some thought a saboteur had dynamited the dam. This would be easier to believe than the dam failing and people dying senselessly. But that was the case. And given the sorry state of American infrastructure, something similar could be the case again: the St. Francis Dam as portent, not aberration. ...

The dam burst on its sides, so that a strangely picturesque center section remained, standing there as a lone man might on a deserted train platform. Morbidly nicknamed “the Tombstone,” this vertical slab of concrete was dynamited to bits after a boy climbing the structure fell and died (another boy had thrown a snake at him). The stated reason for the demolition was public safety, but as Jon Wilkman wrote in his excellent book on the St. Francis Dam disaster, Floodpath, “it was a memorial to a failure the leaders of Los Angeles preferred to forget.”

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