Originally written by Eve Andrews
Hatfield set his device in motion at the end of December 1915. Over the course of the following month, San Diego was inundated with an extraordinary amount of rain, raising the reservoir level by nearly a foot and a half in just the first two weeks. Hatfield was both delighted and smug, making the rounds to demand his payment.
Soon, however, a second downpour caused the San Diego and Tijuana rivers to overflow, flooding the slightly inland Mission Valley and the small farming towns within it. About a week later, a third, unprecedented deluge knocked down the Otay Dam and wiped out the Otay Valley, leaving approximately 20 casualties in its wake.
Hatfield maintained that he had performed his job as promised even in the face of, well, mass murder accusations. Nonetheless, both officials in 1916 and historians today remain unconvinced that Hatfield’s experiments actually generated the amount of precipitation that decimated the region.
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In fact, it’s much more likely that it was the product of something that wouldn’t be named for another 80 years: The atmospheric river, Southern California’s fickle rain goddess, which delivers a great deal of the region’s precipitation and almost all of its devastating floods.