Dam Failures in March – St. Francis Dam Disaster


St Francis Dam Failure, 12 March 1928.  Failed catastrophically upon its first full filling, near midnight, killing at least 450 people.  Seepage (dirty water)  was observed the day of the failure. A massive landslide occurred in the dams left abutment, comprised of schist.

“Greatest American civil engineering failure in the 20th century.”

Remaining Portions of Dam After Failure.

Historical Society of Southern California:  St. Francis Dam Disaster.

Excellent Photo Display at:  St. Francis Dam collapse – Framework – Photos and Video – Visual Storytelling from the Los Angeles Times.

Type: Concrete Gravity Thick Arch Dam, Maximum Height = 195 feet, Storage (at time of failure) = 38,000 acre-feet

Dam Failures in February

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LOWER SAN FERNANDO DAM FAILURE, 9 FEBRUARY 1971, LOS ANGELES, CA.  Due to Liquefaction and the Magnitude 6.7 San Fernando Earthquake of 1971.


The Los Angeles Dam Story.


Dam Failures in January

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“Lower Otay Dam Disaster – United States (1916) – Death Toll: 40


The Lower Otay Dam constructed on Otay River is situated in San Diego County, California, United States. Its purpose was to serve as a large water reservoir.

In January 1916, after a heavy rain spell hit on the southern region of California, the dam topped up and started releasing water. Unfortunately no proper rescue measures were taken and the reservoir emptied causing great damage in the nearby areas.”

via Top 15 Worst Dam Disasters Ever.

The dam failed at the right abutment on 27 January 1916.  It was a earth and rock fill dam with a steel core.

“Lower Otay Lake and Dam is a rock fill structure with a massive masonry pour as a base for the steel plates. The steel plates, riveted together, acted as a diaphragm to control seepage and can be seen at the middle of the dam. A pyramid formed by the steel members during construction was used as a crane to move rock, steel and concrete to their proper location in the structure. Explosives were used to break rock into smaller units for use in the dam. As an example of the effect of blasting, records show that 100,000 pounds of powder loosened 150,000 tons of rock.”