The Great storm of 1969

“Sending water and mud into the harbor and sending boats out to sea.”

by Richard Senate

Sixty-four years ago, January of 1969, a chain of storms hit California and resulted in forty-seven deaths. Anyone who was in Ventura County at that time remembers the terrible destruction that took place in that disaster. Ten in Ventura County lost their lives in the storms.

The Santa Clara River turned into a raging killer. By the time the rain and debris filled waters reached Ventura  it reverted to its old bed that emptied into  the new Ventura Harbor sending water and mud into the harbor and sending boats out to sea, to  be washed ashore and pounded to kindling in the surf.

The harbor was filled with mud and sunken boats, masts protruding at odd angles that had the harbor resemble a war zone.   One surprising find in the river was a dead twelve foot long alligator that had escaped from the Africa USA Compound and been  beaten to death by rubbish in the water.

Sadly, several boys at a camp were lost when the Sespi Creek flooded and they were trapped in a camp. The Adults unwisely tried to cross the rain swollen creek using a bulldozer. The boys lashed to the vehicle. They got mid-stream before water got into the engine and they were stranded in the surging water. The foolish adults tried as best they could but were swept away. Then, one by one, the boys were pulled from the tractor into the rushing water, where only one managed to survive the ordeal and make it to dry land to tell the tale.

The storm brought wood down all the rivers and streams to the sea, where it was washed onto piles on the beach. In time the wood was burned, filling the sky with black clouds of smoke. It caused the most devastation to hit Ventura  in many decades and no one who lived through the storm can forget  the destruction it caused.

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