Officials survey a washed-out Douglas Bridge on Highway 101 in Klamath following the Christmas Flood of 1964. Photo by Maris Ward courtesy of the Maris Ward family
It was the week before Christmas in 1964 and snow covered the mountains from an earlier Alaskan cold front. On Dec. 18, a warm “Pineapple Express” storm from the tropics had arrived and began delivering large amounts of rainfall to the Northwest region. Warm rains melted the snowpack, and the runoff steadily increased the flow of Klamath River watershed creeks and tributaries, causing the river to rise quickly. Within days, concerns grew with anticipation of dreaded flooding.
The Klamath River had flooded numerous times before, sometimes disastrously, including one flood over 150 years ago mentioned in Frances Turner McBeth’s “Lower Klamath Country” that destroyed Fort Ter-Waw near Klamath Glen. It rained almost constantly in the winter of 1861–1862, and Terwer Valley was covered by the floodwaters. As a result, 22 buildings at Fort Ter-Waw were washed away. And in more recent times, Klamath residents and businesses survived the 1955 flood that caused considerable damage and loss of homes when the river reached 44 feet.
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