There was a time when the Santa Ana River was more than a dried out, paved vein leading from the San Bernardino mountains through Orange County to a mouth between Newport and Huntington beaches.
More than 70 years ago, the Sana Ana River was the lifeblood of the county’s agricultural development. But it also doubled as a deadly force; it was one that, in the years before 1938, people had dismissed after years without incident.
Between February and March 1937, more than 15 inches poured down on Southern California. In February the next year, it was just under 10, according to Los Angeles Times articles at the time. But that downpour in February proved too much. Months of rain leading up to March 3, 1938, including five consecutive days, spelled disaster for thousands in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and the rest of Orange County.