The Great Inland Empire Floods Of 1969

We need to go back a year to see how the floods of 1968 were enhanced by events. In December of 1968, we experienced a major freeze and snowfall. It was 25 degrees over a period of about two weeks previous to Christmas. Temps in the Mountains were down into the low teens and Mt Baldy even reported -10 degrees several nights.

This freeze and snow contributed to a massive kill off of thousands of lemon and orange trees in Upland and Alta Loma. The fruit dropped to the ground and was never picked up because the groves, or least most of them had already been sold off to developers. As a result, thousands of pounds of fruit and tree limbs and trees were added to the mix when the heavy rains came.

In Late January, we received our first tastes of what was to come. Nearly 5 inches of rain fell across the IE in a little over 2 hours.

Then in February, the first wave of the Pineapple Express arrived dropping over 20 inches of rain on a soaked valley.

The Weather people issued small stream advisories for the foothill communities but nothing really occurred.

Then, March arrived bringing in torrential Monsoon rains from Hawaii. The snow level was 8,000 feet so what fell in the mountains was all rain.

Over 80 inches of rain fell in the upper foothill communities of the IE.

The Cucamonga Creek swelled to over 2 miles wide when all of the earthen dams in the foothills collapsed under the debris load.

Dozens of homes were lost or damaged on Carnelian and Vineyard. The Thomas Bros Winery suffered heavy damaged when flood waters pushed all of the giant wine barrels out though the front of the building onto Foothill. At the Same time the Capri Ki and the bowling alley across the street were destroyed by four feet of mud, lemons and trees crashed into the back wall.

Down on Arrow Highway, several homes were heavily damaged by the floods as there walls and windows were pushed out by the water.

On Euclid, the waters were flowing 4 feet deep carrying tons of rotten fruit, tree limbs and cars, houses and people down to the 10 freeway.

The 10 freeway was stopped as a torrent of water crashed over the top of the freeway damaging several cars and trucks.

Meanwhile in the eastern end of the IE, the Santa Ana River was in full flood stage. In some area it was 15 feet deep and 4 miles wide.

All of this flowed towards the Prado Damn in Chino. For the first time in its history the Prado Damn spillway had 4 feet of water overflowing the dikes.

The Santa Ana River was flowing at full flood stage through the canyon, but back then there were not any homes or businesses in the area and the lower sections had been concreted several years before.

By the storms end over $500 million in damage had been caused, 60 people were killed and hundreds of homes had been damaged or destroyed.


I think you mistakenly wrote the floods of 1968 when you meant 1969 in the first sentence......

As a 17 year old that year, I used to love to explore Cucamonga Canuon from my home in Fontana, We'd ride our bikes up into Etiwanda through the orange groves, dodging feral dog packs along the way. After the heaviest rainfall had just ended, we went up there and hiked the fire road that led up the east side of the canyon, then down into the creek. Long before we saw the creek, we could hear it and feel it shaking the bedrock below us. What we finally beheld was truly awesome, long before that word came into everyday use. The creek- usually about 8 feet wide, clear as air, and six inches deep, was a raging caldron of brown foam fifty yards wide and maybe 20 feet deep, carrying huge sycamores and digger pines like toothpicks. Where the road forded the creek there once was a stand of beautiful alder and birch trees- these had all been swept away. Our goal had been to hike down the gorge to check out Cucamonga Falls, but even though we were 17 and not very bright, we decided that would be suicide and passed on that plan. That was actually the last time I ever hiked in Cucamonga Canyon. I hear it's now full of trash, abandoned cars, and gang grafitti, and it's mouth is not open to the public. What a shame- such a grand slice of nature so close to one of the world's most obscenely populated metropolitan areas- literally, right in the backyards of 15 million people. RIP, Cucamonga Creek- you will always hold a special place in my heart- my first real love.

I have hiked all the canyons from Haven Ave to Etiwanda, and have not seen a single old car, virtually no graffiti and very little, if any trash. Am i in the wrong place? (I'm not even sure where Cucamonga Canyon is).

Cucamonga Canyon is west of Haven Ave. by a couple miles. It's located above the top of Sapphire. Used to be a fun place to go.

I'm searching for a newspaper article and picture that was printed in the local papers in and around Loma Linda of my Dad (Gerald Reynolds) during the flood of 1969. He was standing in front of the Loma Linda Elementary/Academy School on Anderson St. holding an umbrella with his pant legs rolled up, standing in the water, as he was assisting school children getting to their parents/family. Any assistance in locating this would be most helpful.

The failure in 1969 was that of local government. The idea that those earthen dams (built by the Williams SCS Camp) collapsed during the 1969 flood is pure myth. The only "collapse" was east edge along Cucamonga Creek where a local chicken "rancher" had diverted water for his own use. Army Corps of Engineer personnel investigating the situation believed both that rancher and the local flood personnel who allowed it "in exchange for free eggs" should have been charged with manslaughter. Instead there were successful civil suits for property damage, which mainly just enriched a local lawyer.

There was also a small C-shaped leak at the southwest curve radius where a developer had been allowed to remove soil for fill for his housing development but the "dam/levee" still held. San Bernardino County published a book by Sidler stating that those structures held back more than 2,300,000 cubic yards of sediment/debris. As a reference these millions of tons of debris held back by the Williams structures is more debris than that of Carabelleda flood where thousands died. Had the foothill "dams" actually collapsed the death toll would likely have been horrific.

While we might like to think of 1969 as the "Great" flood, the flood chart published the County ranks it as only #8 by size. There were SEVEN much larger storms in the preceding 105 years.


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