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Looking Back to 1941: Storm damages entire coast, infant deaths increase 

Looking Back Paso Robles

This look back at Paso Robles history comes from local newspapers in the Paso Robles Area Historical Society collection. News for this column is selected with the assistance of Research Director Jan Cannon. Newspaper photography by GiGi Green.

Excerpts from the Wednesday, February 12, 1941, Paso Robles Journal

Heavy rains and wind damage entire coast

Heavy rains and raging winds have done serious damage to the entire California coast during the storm which up until today has drenched San Luis Obispo County and Paso Robles.

Local rainfall has been recorded as 16.97 inches for the season and 2.94 inches for the last storm beginning Saturday and lasting until yesterday evening.

Total rainfall for the county was given ass 24.12 inches since last July 1 and 4.07 inches during the last storm.

At Avila rough water and high tide brought the sea right up to the sea wall threatening for a while, Tuesday morning, to flood Front Street, the high wind blowing a shooting gallery of its foundations and blowing in windows at a grocery store.

Highways were temporarily blocked by debris, stopping traffic at various points for several hours.

Paso Robles history - storm

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At Santa Margarita, center of recent storms, side streets and flatlands were reported several inches under water.

Shandon received .21 inches of rain for a seasonal total of 12.48, Creston has .20 for a total of 10.19.

At Alameda, Calif., the seawall collapsed in several places and police reported 350 homes flooded, marooning entire families. Damage was estimated from $50,000 to $250,000. Three story buildings along the shore were topped by spray, it was reported.

Fair weather was predicted for the coast today, by the Weather Bureau.

Air travel in and out of San Francisco was reported at a standstill yesterday. Oakland’s Municipal Airport on Bay Farm Island was flooded with only one runway available for use.

The new Pedro Mountain section of the coast road, south of San Francisco, was closed by slides.

San Francisco was battered by a wind that reached a high of 42 miles an hour shortly before noon yesterday, blowing down signs in various parts of the city, and blowing down many trees.

No damage was reported in the Paso Robles area, but motorists were warned to be on the lookout for slides and to expect delays on state highways until they can be made safe for travel.

Many infants die in county; health problem

Concern has been expressed by County Health Department officers over the heavy death rate among infants during January and since February 1.

Dr. E.M. Bingham, county health officer, reported that 11 infants under one year have died thus far in 1941. During 1940 there were 25 infant deaths. The heavy death rate during the month was attributed to overcrowding, poor sanitary and housing facilities, and lack of prenatal care combined with poor weather conditions during the month.

Dr. Bingham said that the death rate was indicative of an increasing health problem that was facing the county with the concentration here of camp workers and new residents.

Whooping cough proved fatal to two children during the past week and the department warned parents to keep children away from infected persons. The health department is still providing vaccination treatments. The vaccine protects only after three months.

Whooping cough is rarely fatal except to infants, according to the department.

The last semi-monthly report showed that there were 41 new cases of whooping cough in the county. There was only one whooping cough death during 1940, there were no deaths during 1929; and only one during 1938.

Read previous Looking Back articles

Thank you to the sponsors of Looking Back

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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

Jackie Iddings is a contributing reporter and photographer for the Paso Robles Daily News.