SNOW, FLOODS AND DROUGHTS

 

Weather played a very important part in the condition of the country roads.  Because of these natural disasters, mostly floods, it forced the improvements of  Highway 94.  Through these improvements roads were straightened, built up and widened.  Rocks were removed to eliminate some of the washouts and closures.  It took from 1 week to  6 months to get the roads passable and repaired after a severe rain storm.  Campo Road was a county road maintained by local supervisors.  They got out after rains with a road scraper drawn by a four-horse team,  It pulled the heavy blade which was operated by a hand wheel from a platform back of the driver’s seat.   The county budget, which was under the jurisdiction of the County Supervisors allowed little for improvements.    Following are some record years in weather conditions:

Snow 1882 -  Four feet of snow were reported from Dulzura School through the  Potrero area,  In the Clover Flats it was judged to be 40’ to 50’ deep by Sam Cameron.  This was very unusual and brought everything to a standstill which lasted several days, even weeks.  Dorothy  Schultz (5) said “snow went down to the fork of Otay Road and Hwy 94.  Burtons from Jamul Ranch had started a 500 head herd of cattle to Yuma when the snow caught them at Campo.  They couldn’t go on, there was no feed, and in trying to return to Jamul lost most of the cattle.  Less than a hundred made it back to Jamul.”

Floods: 1883-4  Both  Sam Cameron’s diary and in “Pioneering in Dulzura” states  “The winter was very wet and continued rain raised the river so high.  The Cottonwood River was impossible to ford and cattle were lost in the Marron valley” .

1895 - Dorothy Schmid  writes in her book “ Frank Clark (of Dulzura) said the stage driver was caught somewhere between Campo and Cottonwood River and he could not ford the river for one week.  The bridge went out (Cottonwood) and on this side it washed out Shecklers house, orchard etc (at Barrett near the present Taylor ranch) .  From here to town the roads are still impassable except for man and horses who can get over the hills and likely a wagon cannot get through for several weeks.  The ground is so wet in many places that horses bog down and must be pulled out or left there to die.”

1916 - The year of the notorious Hatfield flood.  This was the BIG flood and raised havoc with roads, canyons, bridges, houses, and barns.  The month of January got 20.61” of rain and on one day alone 6.90 inches.   Schmid  (5) reported in her book “When the clouds lifted and we could see great and small landslides on the mountains looking as though some great beast had clawed them.  Entire sections of the road were gone and not a bridge remained.  The greatest slide, acres in extent, was on the north side of Lyons Peak where boulders big as houses thundered down the mountain crushing oak trees into pulp.  Canyons were piled with boulders from above and everywhere the top soil was washed away.  The first messenger to get through to survey the roads crossed the Sweetwater River on some sort of cable and then having walked from there to Dulzura where he spent the night.  Borrowed a horse at Clark’s ranch and rode to Barrett where the bridge was out and continued on beyond, finding roads gone in many places.  Road crews were already at work doing all they could to make a passable route.”   Henry McCain was working on the road  east of Potrero  “There were great boulders in the roads that had to be drilled by hand and blasted in pieces so they could be taken out with teams, also there were immense ditches across the roads”, according to Ella McCain (4)  in her book.      

1925-26-27 Other flood years according to R.O. Harris. The road was washed out between San Diego and Imperial Valley and the Cottonwood bridge was washed out again.

In the early 1930’ s there was severe drought.  It was across the nation.

We have had a lot of wet years which caused severe destruction of the roads.  Because of this, the county was forced to do something about the roads.  Each time the roads were improved it was better, but with great inconvenience to all.

 

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