Failure of the Saint Francis Dam The city of Los Angeles needed a bigger water supply to provide water incase of drought or interruption of the current aqueduct. Construction of the Saint Francis Dam started in 1924 right outside of Los Angeles. Chief Engineer of the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water, Mr. William Mulholland, was in charge of every aspect of the design and construction of the dam. The St. Francis Dam was designed to be 175 feet tall and to hold back a reservoir of 30,000 acre-feet. Right after construction began in 1924, Mulholland decided to raise the dam 10 feet and increase the capacity of the reservoir to 32,000 acre-feet. In July of 1925 when the dam was about halfway completed, Mulholland again decided to raise the dam another 10 feet to a total height of 195 feet with a new capacity of 38,170 acre-feet. After construction of the dam, leaks were detected, Mulholland neglected these leaks and considered the dam to be safe. The day of the collapse Mulholland was asked to inspect new found cracks, found by the dam keeper Tony Harnischfeger. Mulholland considered the dam to still be safe. A moment before midnight on March 12, 1928 the St. Francis Dam collapsed. The twelve billion gallons of water rushed out from behind the dam in the form of a wave seventy eight feet tall destroying twelve thousand homes, eight thousand acres of farmland, and killed in excess of 450 people on its way to the Pacific Ocean. The total damage is estimated at fifteen million dollars. Mulholland made several catastrophic decisions in the design and construction of the Dam. “ The base of the dam was not widened to compensate for the additional water storage the city had required of it. “ There were no contraction joints, which allow concrete to crack in a controlled manner when it cools. “ No drainage galleries, tunnels that run through a structure to allow inspection for cracks and leaks. These galleries also a…
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