Mystery in History The Rainmaker Charles Mallory Hatfield Part 2

About the history of the rainmaker Charles Mallory Hatfield who mysteriously brought a little too much rain to San Diego.


The sky cleared on Jan. 20, but another six-day storm rolled in four days later and brought 2.85 in. of rain to add to "Hatfield's Hatful." Since the ground was still saturated from the previous rains, disaster was inevitable. The San Diego River jumped its banks, and several houses floated out into San Diego Bay. Police in rowboats rescued stranded home owners and motorists, and one man, wiping the water from his eyes as he was hauled on board, suggested, "Let's pay Hatfield $100,000 to stop." Ironically, the rain cut off the city's water supply, forcing people to seek out water holes. A variety of animals, including hundreds of snakes, appeared in the city's streets. The coastal highway to Los Angeles was impassable, boats were swept from their moorings in the bay, telegraph and telephone lines were felled, rail service to the area was discontinued because stretches of track had vanished, and 110 of the county's 112 bridges were washed away. Except for the arrival of an occasional relief steamer loaded with food, the city was completely isolated for a week.

Winds blowing up to 62 mph were clocked on the morning of the 26th, and the north abutment of the Sweetwater Dam collapsed 24 hours later. On the evening of the 27th, the Lower Otay Dam burst "like the crack of doom," releasing 13 billion gallons of water. A 50-ft. wall of water drowned approximately 20 people and scoured the Otay Valley on its 7-mi. journey to the San Diego Bay.

At Morena the Hatfields were oblivious to the destruction the rain had wreaked upon the rest of the county. When a band of farmers gathered at the base of their tower and yelled up at them to stop the rain, the brothers thought they were joking and continued their efforts to fill the reservoir. Charles explained, "I had a year to do the job, but I thought I'd might as well wind it up right away." By the end of January, 44 in. of rain had fallen at Morena, and the water flowing over the top of the dam was 4 ft. deep. Only when the brothers started into San Diego to claim their fee did they realize the magnitude of the storm damages. Since the road was gone, they had to walk, and they posed as the "Benson boys" to avoid being lynched by angry ranchers.

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