Ed Keenan, a 75-year-old East County native, still remembers growing up and listening to his elders jawbone about the flood of the century — and the man who might have caused it.
“There was always this discussion going on among the old folks,” Keenan recalled. “‘Nah, he didn’t do it.’ And, ‘Yeah, he did!'”
Was rainmaker Charles Hatfield responsible for the killer floods that burst a dam, sent houses floating out to sea and cut off San Diego from the outside world?
The city of San Diego was in a tough spot in late 1915. A drought had left the county parched and the rapidly growing city — which expanded from 39,578 residents in 1910 to 74,361 in 1920 — in need of a reliable water supply.
San Diego relied on reservoirs, including what is now Lake Morena in East County near Campo. So municipal leaders hired Hatfield, a cloud-seeding rainmaker who had gained a reputation by supposedly coaxing the skies to open in places from Los Angeles to the North County community of Bonsall.
Hatfield’s job: Fill the Morena Reservoir.