San Antonio, TX Flood, Sept 1921
40 KNOWN DEAD, FEAR 250 PERISHED, IN FLOOD THAT SWEEPS SAN ANTONIO; PROPERTY LOSS IS PUT AT $3,000,000
CLOUDBURST CAUSES HAVOC
Three Streams Overflow, After Terrific Storm and Inundate City.
MEXICAN QUARTER COVERED
Troops on Guard, but Martial Law Is Withheld---No Need Yet for Outside Relief.
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, Sept. 10.---With the known list of dead standing at forty this afternoon, police officials still believe that an estimate of 250 lives lost as a result of the flood which struck this city early Saturday morning is a conservative one. The damage to property is variously estimated at $1,000,000 to $3,000,000.
Because of the continued swollen condition of the three streams which caused the flood, the work of recovering bodies is progressing slowly. Great piles of driftwood which have lodged in trees and against bridges will reveal when removed, it is feared, additional dead. Many bodies also are believed to have floated down stream and may never be accounted for.
Relief work and sanitary precautions are well under way. A thoroughly organized relief committee has begun caring for flood victims, and health officers are engaged in a rigid clean-up of the city.
Houses Piled on One Another.
Reports coming from outlaying sections confirm the fear that the flood is the worst in the city's history. Streets in some instances have been swept clean for almost their entire length. Houses in the southern portion of the city were lifted from their foundations and piled on upon another, or in some cases driven entirely through adjoining buildings. Dead animals line the banks of the streams.
The flood waters from the San Antonio river and from Alazan Creek and small tributaries inundated an area approximately two miles long by half a mile wide, including the heart of the business section and a portion of the residence section along River Avenue and adjacent streets, as well as the thickly populated west side, where today thousands of Mexicans are homeless and the dead not yet counted.
Such structures as the Brady Building, Wolff & Marx department store, Stower's, St. Mary's Church and school buildings, the St. Anthony Hotel, the Elks Club, formerly the Travis Club; several hospitals, the Central Telephone Exchange, the City hall and Police and Fire Headquarters, and countless other structures along the low-lying river valley were in the pathway of the flood. The Gunter Hotel, at Houston and St. Mary's Streets, at one time had water standing almost to the mezzanine floor.
The Alamo, "the cradle of Texas liberty," eescaped[sic] damage by water, due to its elevation.
At the office of The San Antonio Express the water reached into the first floor at 12:45 A. M.
Flood Came in the Night.
These were the things visible to the eye when day dawned, cloudy, gloomy and threatening. But what occurred in the blackness of the night when scores of man, women and children met death in the oil-coated waters of the flood, as houses collapsed, bridges were swept out, trees and electric light and telephone poles crashed, is something that will never be known in detain.
Countless acts of heroism occurred as civilians and soldiers braved the current and floating debris to carry women and children to places of safety. Thousands of families along the river were rescued before daybreak by men who worked the long night, often neck deep in water, risking their lives almost every minute of that time to save others.
And in keeping with such heroic acts were the tragedies. Babies were swept from mother's arms and lost, mother's were carried away and children rescued. Father's were lost saving little ones, and today there are widows and orphans in San Antonio who shudder at the thought of last night.
San Antonio was caught without warning. The cloudburst which caused the flood broke after 8 o'clock Friday evening in the hills along the Olmos Creek.
Strikes With Terrific Impact.
The electricity display accompanying the storm was the most vivid ever seen here as lightning flashed almost continuously, and the residents, unable to get out because of the downpour went early to bed. A roar was heard, subdued but ominous, as the flood waters broke upon the town.
"It was impossible to stand on your feet against the swift current," said one man who escaped from his home before the force of the flood struck.
"I got away early as the first waters rose and even then I was compelled to cling to buildings, tree, fences, and wreckage to get out. I could not stand upright against the water. When the crest come a few minutes later I do not believe any human being could have withstood it [illegible] a wall of water variously described as ten to thirty feet high struck with a rush that carried houses from their foundations, swept motor cars away, destroyed concrete bridges, tore down trees and poles and ripped up the paving in the streets like so many pebbles.
"I seized hold of a picket fence," said one youth, "just as the flood struck. The fence was torn away and when I got out I still had one of the pickets in my hand. I don't know how I got out."
Bodies Crushed and Bruised.
Large houses were swept about on the flood's chest as though they were paper boxes.
Some of the bodies taken from the flooded waters and awaiting identification in the morgues were crushed and busied as though beaten with a mighty flail.
Throughout the darkness of the night the terrified screams of women and children echoed now and then across the flood waters. men and women sank to their knees in the mud and water and prayed. Others ran about in a distracted manner, seeking relatives and friends, talking incoherently, weeping and shrieking.
When the waters reached the business section they came with the same rapid swirl with which they swept the residence portions.
After the first rush of water when the San Antonio River and Alazan Creek left their banks, it was possible for rescuers to work at the edge of the flood, retreating steadily backward like a battle line yielding inch by inch before the charge of the enemy. The waters quickly swept up and down Houston and Commerce Streets for blocks, running over sidewalks into basements and rising steadily ever higher and higher.
They quickly made their way from street to street up alleys miniature waves slapping against the sides of the buildings. Now and then a piece of wreckage was tossed here and there through the streets until it collided with a show window. The under a shower of glass, merchandise was seized by the waters and carried out and away while a thick film of crude oil, muddy ooze and gravel spread through the store.
District That Was Flooded.
Beginning at the north end of Bracken Ridge Park, the flood extended the entire course of the river through the city to Augusta Street north of the river, where the [the] downtown district flood began. The flood line follows:
Augusta Street west to Romana, thence to Main Avenue and down Main Avenue south to business district; West Commerce Street inundated half mile west of Main Avenue; ground on both sides of San Pedro Creek from Laurel Street south flooded two to three blocks on either side; entire course is about twelve blocks west of the International & Great Northern Railroad tracks, flowing south and turning east to East Commerce Street, where it is four blocks west of International & Grant Northern Station; thence the course winds eastward and crosses South Laredo Street, where the greatest loss of life occurred; the eastern limit of the inundated area is Avenue C. from Jones Avenue south to Houston Street; west of Losoya Avenue, however, everything was flooded from two to ten feet, including business houses on West Commerce and Market Streets.
Not Placed Under Martial Law.
The city has not been placed under martial law, but the military forces at Fort Sam Houston and Camp Travis are co-operating in relief and policing with the city and county officers.
Soldiers and police patrolled the downtown district to prevent looting in the stores, a portion of the district being declared closed to all traffic except that absolutely necessary to rescue work and salvaging.
The weather is partly cloudy and the Weather Bureau said more showers could be expected, but not heavy enough to cause further flooding.
A temporary morgue was established at the Central Fire and Police Station, to which the soldiers and police have been directed to bring all bodies for identification.
At 8 A. M., Phil Wright, Commissioner of Fire and Police, stated he believed the loss of life to be "very high." He had just completed a tour of the flooded district.
Newspaper plants were flooded, but The San Antonio Light succeeded in issuing and extra on a hand press at 6 A. M. Alarming reports of loss of life in the valley of the San Antonio River, south of the city, reached The Light, but that newspaper was unable to confirm them.
Throughout the night the east and west sides of the city were cut off from each other, and it was only at daylight that the waters had receded[sic] sufficiently to permit crossing by one bridge in the northern part.
The power house will be out of commission for at least two or three days. There is a partial telephone service. Water service will be cut off for at least twenty-four hours.
Rainfall Was Unprecedented.
An unprecedented rainfall, which began at midnight Wednesday and continued throughout Friday and Friday night, caused the flood. At least eight inches of rain fell during this period. Early last night there was a heavy rainfall in the valley of the Olmos Creek north of the city. Water from the creek rushed into the San Antonio River and joined the surface water which was pouring into the river from the heavy rain throughout the day in the city proper. The river went out of its banks within a few hours. The water and electric light plants are located along the banks of the river, and they were put out of business quickly.
Street car traffic was stopped and hundreds of people were unable to reach their homes. Many of them spent the night wandering about the business district.
Police and firemen attempted to warn residents in the Mexican section of the city and succeeded in getting hundreds of them to safety before the San Pedro Creek overflowed. Many others were cut off before the could get out, and the police estimated the loss of life in this district would be large.
Wires of commercial telegraph companies went down early this morning, and scores of persons, anxious to get word to the outside that they were safe, came to the office of The San Antonio Light and appealed to have messages sent out over the wires of The Associated Press, which were working.
San Antonio is a city of about 175,000 people. Besides being the largest city in Texas, it is also the military headquarters for Texas and New Mexico, and has a division stationed here. Troops, under Colonel Porter, opened headquarters in the Federal Building shortly after midnight.
All South Texas Damaged.
DALLAS, Texas, Sept. 10.----High winds and heavy rains which swept South Texas late yesterday and early today in one of the most severe storms in several years, causing property damage of thousands of dollars and injury to numbers of people, had subsided late today, according to reports received here.
Only one fatally, that of Brakeman Wagner, who was killed near Noonan in the wreck of Southern Pacific No. 227, has been reported as resulting directly from the storm, excluding the persons who were killed in the flood at San Antonio. The train, a mixed passenger and freight, was derailed early today when it plunged into a washout between San Antonio and Eagle Pass. The engineer and fireman of the train were injured. None of the passengers was hurt.
Near Austin property damage estimated at $150,000 was caused and eight persons were injured by a tornado and cloudburst late today. Owing to demoralized telephone and telegraph service, it has been impossible to estimate the damage wrought in several towns within a radius of fifteen to twenty miles of Austin.
Hardly had the force of the tornado spent itself in the sparsely settled out-lying districts of Austin when a heavy fall of rain commenced. The torrent soon filled the streets, flooding stores and buildings. .....
LIST OF IDENTIFIED DEAD.
Twenty of the Forty Known Victims of Flood Are Children.
SAN ANTONIO, Tex., Sept. 10.----Of the forty known to have lost their lives in the flood here, twenty are young children, many of them infants. Of the others the majority are past middle age.
The list follows:
DE ZEPEDS, CHANO, 2 years old, 1,504 South Laredo Street.
RAMIREZ, Mrs. ROSA 55.
FALCON, Mrs. GUADALUPE, 50, 322 North Santa Rosa Street.
VASVINDER, Mrs. JENNIE, 40, 124 Cass Avenue.
GORIN, Mrs. EMMA, 24, 444 Furnish Avenue.
GORIN, GILBERT, 9-month-old son of Mrs. Emma Gorin.
McCALEB, W. A., 40.
SOTO, Mrs. FRANCISCO RAMIREZ, 40, 814 Chihuahua Street.
LOPEZ, Mrs. IGNACIO, 25.
FALCON, JUAN JOSE, 60, 705 South San Marcos Street.
FALCON, Mrs. VICTORIANO, 60, wife of Juan Falcon.
DREAGER, ALIEV D., 9 months old, 2,425 South Flores Street.
CARDENAS, FELIPE, 6, 540 Mitchell Street.
CARDENAS, THEODORE, 2, sister of Felipe Cardenas.
SOSA, ANDREW, 14.
DIAZ, RALPH, about 40 years old.
LARA, M., 61.
CARDENAS, ATURA, 5, 540 Mitchell Street.
CARDENAS, LOUSIA, 540 Mitchell Street.
DE LA GARZA, LONDTARAS, 1, McLaska Street.
DE LA GARZA, ENAZA, 4, same address.
DE LA GARZA, CHARLOTTE, 3, same address.
MORALES, FRANCISCO, 36.
CAVASAS, VIRGINIA, 10, 322Â½ South Santa Rosa Street.
Infant son, 4 days old, of Mr. and Mrs. Hildeberto Cardena, 322Â½ Santa Rosa Street.
DE ZEPEDA, JUANITO RAMON, 28, 1,540 South Laredo Street.
ZEPEDA, LUPITA, 7 months, daughter of Juan ZEPEDA.
ZEPEDA, THOMASTIA, 12, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Juan Zepeda.
ZEPEDA, 10, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Juan Zepeda.
RAYMOND, Maria, 12, 1,540 South Laredo Street.
HERNANDEZ, ELENA T., 22, 1,820 South Laredo Street.
HERNANDEZ, ESTELLA, 6, daughter of Adolfo Hernandez.
HERNANDEZ, ADOLFO, JR., son of Adolfo Hernandez.
Six unindentified Mexicans.
The New York Times, New York, NY 11 Sept 1921