January 1969 Rainfall and Resulting Damage

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Posted by Drew Mashburn on January 15, 2019

Fifty years ago, the Ojai Valley, as well as, all of Ventura County, was drenched by records amount of rain that resulted in the loss of life and millions of dollars of damage to public and private property.  The following two articles first appeared in the Wednesday, January 29, 1969 edition of the “Ojai Valley News” on Page A1. They are reprinted here with the permission of the “Ojai Valley News”. The author of the first article is unknown.  Photos have been added by the Ojai Valley Museum.  Some of the photos were taken in January and others in February of 1969.    

The rainfall — this
is how it happened

On January 17 only 6 inches of rain had pattered on the valley. It looked like a dry year.

On January 29 over 30 inches had fallen from two Pacific storms.

The first storm started in earnest a week before last Saturday. When it ended in a drizzle six days later, over 12 inches of rain had fallen. However the valley was still in pretty good shape and Lake Casitas was storing 150,000 acre feet water for future use. Barrancas, creeks and rivers were running with a heavy winter flow.

Then it happened. Within the next 24 hours seven inches landed on the valley – double and triple that in the mountain areas – from a tropical storm.

Saturday morning, barrancas burst, creeks overflowed, and the river went wild, causing the biggest disaster in the history of the valley.

“GIVE ME MY BOOTS N’ SADDLE” was “Give me my boat n’ paddle” for Elmer Myatt of Kim Engineering and Lothar Herrman, who decided to have a little outing during the big rain Sunday night. Our photographer caught them preparing to wade to the restaurant for a coffee break. The white spots in the photo are rain drops on the camera lens. The water was nearly two feet deep for a couple of blocks along Ojai Avenue. (From Wed., Jan. 22, 1969 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette”; Page A-4)

Here’s the day-by-day rainfall:

OJAI:                                                                             1969
January 17 ………………………………………………………………… 6.05
Januray 18 ………………………………………………………………… 6.54
January 19 …………………………………………………………………10.47
January 20 …………………………………………………………………14.05
January 21 …………………………………………………………………18.61
January 22 …………………………………………………………………19.12
January 23 …………………………………………………………………19.22
January 24 …………………………………………………………………21.64
January 25 …………………………………………………………………28.64
January 26 …………………………………………………………………29.94
January 27 …………………………………………………………………29.94
January 28 …………………………………………………………………30.23
January 29 …………………………………………………………………30.23
OAK VIEW                                                                     1969
January 17 ………………………………………………………………….. 5.97
January 18 …………………………………………………………………..
January 19 ………………………………………………………………….. 8.87
January 20 …………………………………………………………………..16.48
January 21 …………………………………………………………………..20.07
January 22 …………………………………………………………………..20.65
January 23 …………………………………………………………………..20.65
January 24 …………………………………………………………………..22.16
January 25 …………………………………………………………………..29.46
January 26 …………………………………………………………………..30.89
January 27 …………………………………………………………………..31.28
January 28 …………………………………………………………………..31.30
January 29 …………………………………………………………………..31.59

Two swimming pools were washed away from homes along San Antonio Creek near Ojai. (Dan Poush photo from “THE GREAT FLOOD VENTURA COUNTY January 1969 February”)

The San Antonio Creek jumped its banks, then ran through Camp Comfort.

Flooding damage at the junction of Hermosa Rd. & Creek Rd. The Ojai Valley Inn golf course is at the right of the photo.

Private residence that was located along Creek Road. The flooding San Antonio Creek demolished it.

Railroad bridge toppled at Casitas Springs by 1969 flooding.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

City faces crisis;
$400,000 repairs
by
Fran Renoe

“Ojai is, of course, a disaster area, and I have proclaimed it as such.” Mayor A. R. Huckins opened the Ojai City Council meeting Monday night with that statement, and the council immediately began discussion of the city’s damages.

Pipe gone

“At this time we have raw sewage dumping into San Antonio Creek. We need to replace 430 feet of sewer line,” City Manager Jack Blalock said, “This is our immediate problem. Then, there’s 500 feel along Creek rd. that is completely gone and at least a mile near Rancho Arnaz, and maybe more. Sewer lines in Meiners Oaks and Oak View are also washed out.

“This 430 feet requires 18-inch pipe, which is terribly expensive. It’s a matter of public safety, and has to be done immediately. We have a representative, John McWherter at a meeting of public works officials in Ventura tonight to find out what we have to do to be eligible for disaster funds and aid in this problem. We feel sure that Ojai will be given high priority in funds and aid,” Blalock said.

Councilman William Burr and Maarten Voogd formed a sub-committee relating to sewer problems and according to Burr, at least 6,000 feet of line is estimated to be lost, in addition to line that has yet to be measured, still covered by water or debris that the committee cannot get to and estimate damage. At this time, however, cost estimates run as high as $400,000. Blalock said that the needed 18-inch pipe runs at least $20 a foot.

Huckins reported that Blalock had ordered part of the sewer system plugged in order to keep out rocks and dirt. Even so, at least one section of sewer line is known to be plugged with debris, and Huckins commented “when that happens, sometimes it is cheaper to just lay another pipe.”

Blalock also needed approval of the council to clear the plugged lines. He said “there is a good possibility that our crew and equipment cannot do the job. We may need to call in a contractor to use jetting action tools. The first manhole just before the 430-foot break is completely filled with mud and we don’t have that kind of equipment.”

“I understand the city is also in the market for a new police car,” commented councilman Loebl.

“Yes, we were almost in the market for a new policeman,” commented Huckins. They were referring to the narrow escape achieved by Gene Meadows when his patrol car was inundated by flood waters just east of San Antonio Creek after the bridge went out.

After some discussion led by Councilman Monroe Hirsch concerning competitive bidding for a new patrol car — he wanted to know if dealers outside of Ojai were invited to bid on new cars — the council approved purchase of a patrol car. Competitive bidding between local Ford and Chevrolet dealers is conducted, with Blalock explaining that in one instance an outside bidder was only $1.75 lower than a local dealer, and that when servicing and repair work had to be done, it was cheaper to buy from a local dealer as the patrol cars could be worked on locally, instead of the police department having to drive the cars to dealers outside the valley.

Canada st.

“Other immediate damage includes street repair, especially Canada st.,” commented Mayor Huckins. “We thought at first the water was coming from the Stewart Canyon storm drain. Now it appears that it is an entirely new stream.”

AFTER THE FIRST RAINSTORM Stewart Canyon basin, built by the federal government as flood control above Canada st,, had reached a peak of 15 feet and here has receded to 11 feet. Water metering tower is well above water level. (from Sun., Feb. 2, 1969 edtion of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette”;Page B-3)

“Parts of Canada are caving in,” Blalock said. “We may lose all of the street as far as Eucalyptus unless we can divert the stream.”

CANADA STREET in Ojai is gradually sinking in places as a result of an underground river which is threatening the walls of the Stewart Canyon concrete tunnel underneath the roadbed. The city recently has believed to have found the source of the water and is bypassing it into the tunnel underneath the street. Only time will tell — and the next big rain — if that is the solution. (from Jan. 15, 1969 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette”; Page B-3)

Councilman Burr announced that he and Voogd would be meeting Thursday night with County Public Works staff to see what could be done and what was supposed to be done. Huckins commented that a special meeting of the city council would be called if necessary to expedite authorization for any street work that needed to be done.

“There is a strong possibility we will be able to get disaster funds,” Huckins said. “We certainly can’t float a bond issue at this time and as a public body we can’t borrow from the bank. Therefore, we’ll just have to find out how to get money, then worry about how to pay it back as this is an emergency.”

Councilman Hirsch emphasized that he thought it most important that the city work with the County public health authorities to consult and approve Ojai’s actions before fixing the pipe. He felt this was important in order “not to incur liabilities where the sewage goes out at the downstream area.”

John McWherter, of the Ventura sanitary engineering firm of McCandless-McWherter & Co., arrived to make his report to the council of what had happened at the Monday night meeting in Ventura with State and County public works officials and disaster authorities.

“A Mr. King of the State Emergency Assistance Office in Sacramento met with at least 50 representatives of various city and county staffs to tell us what could be done to correct the flood damage and how to apply for assistance,” McWherter said.

Next meeting

“I brought the council a sample resolution which is to be filled out and presented to the Tri-County meeting of state and federal disaster people at the Federal building at 9 a.m. Saturday.  If Ojai is interested in obtaining assistance we should have this resolution passed upon tonight so it can be presented at that meeting.”

McWherter said he felt that the Ojai sewer system would get top priority, and suggested that a second resolution be passed if any financial aid was to be requested for street damage and repair.

Huckins immediately stated that he was in favor of the resolution to seek sewer aid, but not in favor of asking for street repair aid. “We should not ask for outside aid unless we just can’t handle it ourselves,” Huckins stated.

Burr recommended that a complete report on street damage be compiled including time spent, equipment used, photographic proof, because he felt that such a report would strengthen the cities request if made at a later date. Hirsch and Loebl voted against tabling the street resolution. The council was, however, unanimous in it agreement to collect material to be presented at a later date for financial aid for street repair work.

McWherter stated that as many as 39 state and federal agencies were standing by to provide assistance to those cities and civic agencies needing help.

Federal funds

Hirsch maintained that “it is unfair to have Ojai taxpayers paying into a fund which is used by other cities and not taking advantage of the availability of such funds when offered. I fail to see the value of essentially penalizing a small community such as ours,” Hirsch said.

“We did sustain a disaster and it is going to cost money. I don’t think we would be taking any advantage of financial funds.”

“There’s no question that federal help is needed in the sewer clean-up,” Councilman Voogd said. “But at the same time we have to be very careful to only ask for money when we really need it and after an evaluation of the situation.  If some of these situations are not as crucial as they look then we must judge the degree of crisis. That is on what we should act.”

Other business conducted by the council consisted of approval of minutes from the planning Commission and Architectural Board of Review; approval of resolutions authorizing the preparation of plans and specifications of the Del Norte sewer extension which will service Jim Wyndle’s Richfield Service Station, the Ojai Valley News and the State Equipment Yard near the Y shopping center, plus a resolution to establish an underground utility district — this involves multiple use of a trench by Cable TV, the Edison Company and possibly Pacific Telephone.

The council also approved two ordinances, one adopting a uniform building code and another a uniform plumbing code.

FIXING THE GAS LINE on the Grand Avenue bridge, partially washed out, was this repairman from Southern Counties Gas Tuesday. He was held by the legs by another repairman. Utility company workmen worked round the clock after the storm to restore services in most areas. (Wil Marcus photo); Wed., Jan. 29, 1969 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette” (Page B-7).

Looking west on Grand Avenue in January 1969.

Grand Avenue bridge damaged by flooding in 1969.

Gridley Road was damaged by the flooding.

ALL THAT REMAINS of Friend’s Packing House up on the Maricopa Highway is resting in the yard of Realtor Jack Gilbert’s home across the highway. Gilbert’s house was also totaled. The packing house was dismembered and washed down across the highway. (From Sun,, Feb. 2, 1969 edition of “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette”; Page A-6)

Flood damage to the Maricopa Highway across the Ventura River from the Ojala Resort. The bridge leads over the river to Matilija Hot Springs.

Flooding damaged Wheeler Springs which is located along Highway 33 (AKA: Maricopa Highway).

Comment (1)

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Marjorie Demaree Gordon January 19, 2019 at 5:30 am

My brother lost his home in the flood this flood was terrible so many people awful for many people I saw a lot of the damage

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