Los Angeles, CA Flooding Hits Film Colony, Mar 1938
120 DIE, 20,000 FLEE; FLOOD HITS FILM COLONY
LOS ANGELES, CALIF., PARALYZED BY FLOOD DISASTER -- MOVIE STARS STRANDED -- GYPSIE LEE REMOVES GOWN -- SHIRLEY TEMPLE SPENT NIGHT IN STUDIO LOT BUNGALOW.
Los Angeles -- Southern California's toll of dead and missing in the flood disaster reached 124 as paralyzed Los Angeles struggled to restore public services and survey the full loss from a record-breaking storm.
Accounts of life and property losses swelled spasmodically as flickers of lite came here and there to the demoralized communication system of 100 stricken communities.
The homeless were estimated at nearly 20,000 in the five affected counties -- Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura.
All was silent in the delta land of the wildest river of the flood -- the Santa Ana.
Toll in Lives Unknown.
The last 10 miles of its drainage area, one of the most productive regions agriculturally in the United States, was a muddy lagoon.
There was no means of telling what the life loss there might have been.
In the Santa Ana-Anaheim-Fullerton region the first report in two days showed 15 known dead. In West Riverside, 30 miles up the raging stream, another 15 were reported drowned.
Higher and to the eastward, in the San Bernardion, seven persons perished.
Movie Stars Stranded.
As the sun broke through late in the day over Los Angeles proper it was found that many strange mishaps had befallen the movie colony. Numerous actors were marooned at their studios and many more stars were unable to leave their homes.
MEDELEINE CARROLL, blond English star, was unable to leave her Malibu Beach home and her telephone line was put out of commission. GEORGE MARSHALL, director for 20th Century Fox, was missing. He left his home for the studio but failed to arrive. His car was believed stalled on the flooded road.
At Laurel Canyon, atop Lookout Mountain, MICHAEL WHALEN, IDA LUPINO and TOM RUTHERFORD were isolated in their homes.
Those who worked in studios stayed there. SHIRLEY TEMPLE spent the night in a studio lot bungalow. Warner Bros. studio converted sound stages into dormitories for chorines and boy actors.
GYPSIE LEE Removes Gown.
LOUISE HOVICK, the former GYPSY ROSE LEE, of New York burlesque show houses, removed her evening dress and waded from her home to an automobile.
FRANCHOT TONE hitch-hiked a ride to his studio on a bakery truck and MYRNA LOY abandoned her low slung roadster and borrowed her gardener's ancient Cadillac which rode well above the flooded streets.
Paramont's lot was flooded and SYLVIA SIDNEY, GEORGE RAFT, DOROTHY LAMOUR, MARY CARLISLE and RAY MILLAND rowed boats from one set to another.
The raging torrent surged through the heart of the citrus empire of Riverside and Orange counties, devastating some of the richest orchards and finest residential areas.
There were 25 persons missing in the San Fernando Valley north of Hollywood, just over the hills from the film studios.
Loss[sic] Angeles Isolated.
The weather cleared gradually, allowing the departure and arrival of airplanes and a limited restoration of communications after several hours of virtual isolation.
The metropolis of more than two million population was all but cut off from the outside world during most of the day. Long distance telephone lines were out of commission, telephone service within the city was disorganized, telepraph[sic] lines were down, highways were blocked and rail lines were stymied.
Lifting clouds enabled air lines to start planes out of the city during the morning for San Francisco and at the same time three passenger planes flew in from the Bay City with 52 persons among them JOE E. BROWN, screen actor.
There was racing in thick mud at Santa Anita, so thick that the horses hardly could be seen.
The torrential rains of more than four days -- 10 inches in Los Angeles alone -- spread from the Sierra Madre Mountains and the San Bernardio Mountains in an air line for 30 miles to the sea. The abrupt rise of the mountains behind Los Angeles created a tremendous drainage.
Deaths occurred as far north as Ventura and Ojai to a point 170 miles south San Juan Capistrano.
San Francisco -- Ten persons, the first to leave floodstricken Los Angeles, reached here by plane Friday to tell vivid stories of flood rescues and of houses tumbling down hills.
"The streets of the downtown section were flooded and people couldn't get into office buildings," said HARRY K. DREW, Los Angeles business man.
Flood Reaches to Mountains.
The flood torn area was roughly from Ventura on the north to San Juan Capistrano on the south and from the Pacific Ocean on the west to the San Bernardino Mountains on the east.
Torrential rains fell for more than four days in the city and in the mountains alike. The abrupt rise of the mountains behind the city created a tremendous damage. The rainfall in Los Angeles alone exceeded 10 inches.
Nearly dry aroyos became raging streams.
Movie stars were marrooned in studios. Schools were closed. Railroads ceased operating. Mud flew so thick at Santa Anita race track that spectators hardly could see the horses.
Can Only Guess at Damage.
A heavy runoff from the cloudburst swollen Sanita Ana River struck River side, and 17 persons were reported missing. It inundated Santa Ana, farther downstream, with three feet of water, tearing away communication lines and leaving the extent of damage there only to guesswork.
An undetermined number of storm spectators were washed into the ocean near Long Beach when the bridge on which they stood collapsed. The number lost was generally estimated at 10, but an appeal to ships at sea to watch for survivors or bodies said 45 were on the bridge at the time.
JOHN ROBERTS, air lines pilot who flew from Los Angeles to San Francisco with the first to get away said:
"There is literally water everywhere."
"My home is in North Hollywood on the banks of a wash from Tahunga Dam. At 5 p. m., Friday afternoon -- the peak of the flood -- there was 20 feet of water running over what normally is a bed of dust."
No Drinking Water.
"The water lapped at the sides of my house."
"We had no electricity at times and our drinking water still was shut off when I left. Yesterday when the river rose I saw three houses on the opposite side of the stream collapse and tumble into the flood."
"Motorists trying to drive down streets of the city found their machines washed against the curb by the current. The water was particularly strong at the intersections, running like rivers from the side streets."
"My wife and the neighbors had to put pans out to catch rain water for drinking and washing."
"The town was torn by rumors of damage and deaths."
Worst In Years.
"Persons who have lived in the Los Angeles area for years said this was the worst flood they had seen. One wash that had not had water in it for 40 years was brim full."
"The water had receded a great deal by this morning and I was able to drive to the airport. But there were marks from the flood everywhere, on the streets and buildings and on the weary faces of the people."
Acres Under Water.
"We left Burbank at 8:57 a. m. I circled over part of the flood area and saw that the river and its many washes had cut far into normally dry land. There must be thousands of acres still under water even with the flood abated."
"Between North Hollywood and Van Nuys we could see whole blocks had been inundated. It was raining steadly and whatever water wasn't coming from the dam was pouring from the sky."
"We flew up the regular air route over Bakersfield and Fresno to San Francisco and Oakland."
"Part of the time we were over the clouds and part of the time we flew by could see through a hole in the clouds and there was water quite a way up the valley. I have no idea how far the flood extends."
Storm Lasts Six Days.
The six-day storm, which reached its climax Wednesday in an unprecedented cloudburst, left the countryside scattered with broken bridges, ruined highways, wrecked houses and many orchards and gardens under water.
Theaters churches throughout the stricken area in the citrus belt opened their door to refugees.
The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company said it never had experienced a flood calamity greater than the paralysis of service in the stricken area. All lines to San Fransicso and the east were out, and impassable roads made it impossible for him to ascertain the extent of the destruction.
Rose Bowl Hit.
Pasadena said its loss, to the Rose BOwl, its municipal golf course, and other public works, would total $715,000. San Bernardino City reported $500,000. One resort placed the damage in and around Victorville, where there are huge cement plants, at one million dollars.
There were some 3,000 homeless in Orange county and 2,800 regugees in Los Angeles county alone. No reports were available from Riverside county.
LEWIS STONE a Hero.
LEWIS STONE, film actor, and BEVO MEANS, newspaper man, were credited by neighbors in North Hollywood with having saved the lives of nine persons founded in stranded automobiles during the flood.
MEANS said he arrived home without trousers or automobile, just managing to get over the last bridge that held up. Here is his story:
"My home was cut off on two sides by the rising water. The lights went out, along with the gas and water. With no candles in the house, my first thought was to find a light some place, when to my surprise I saw a lantern waving about one block from my house."
"It seemed as though whoever was carrying the lantern was also carrying a body. Upon arriving at the light I found it to be in the hands of LEWIS STONE."
Thinks of Neighbors.
"In the dowpour of rain and with the water slowly creeping up on both our homes, he was thinking of his neighbors, I personally saw MR. STONE carrying folks from their isolated cars and homes to dry spots. He must have worked half the night."
Governor MERRIAM said the American Red Cross had sent assurances that it would "do everything needed" among the 100 stricken communities.
Lowhill Journal & Republican New York 1938-03-10