Mar 30 2012

Baldwin Hills Dam Disaster (Footage from 1963)

This week, we stumbled onto some footage of the Baldwin Hills Dam disaster that took place in Los Angeles in December of 1963. The more we learned about it, the more fascinating it became although it was a tragedy that should have easily been averted. It was built between 1947-1951 despite safety concerns and consideration of fault lines. The designer of the dam actually has the distinction of having designed not one but two dams that failed! In the subsequent failure analysis, they learned that the main cause, illustrated here, was subsidence linked to oil extraction and waste brine injection causing fault movement beneath the reservoir. Check out the classic footage below.


The gash in the dam shown at the end of the footage is unbelievable. If you look at the location in the map below (the water flowed south to north), it’s amazing there was not a greater loss of life. It probably didn’t hurt that the disaster happened during the afternoon and not at night. The dam was never rebuilt and the former reservoir is now a park.

Map picture

For more on the Baldwin Hills Dam Disaster, check out these links:

Baldwin Hills Reservoir (Wikipedia)

Ground Rupture in the Baldwin Hills (Stanford)

Baldwin Hill Disaster (Flickr)

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