The Floods of 1955

Southern Pacific's railroad trestle at South Lassen Street, December 1955.
Southern Pacific’s railroad trestle at South Lassen Street, December 1955.

The floods of December 1955, locally and throughout California was a notable event to say the least. It began with warm rains on December 15th and by December 20th, 4.41 inches had fallen in Susanville. The snow elevation remained high, and on December 20th there was  21 inches of snow on Fredonyer summit.  The rain continued turning the Susan River into a raging menace. Conditions worsened as the river brought assorted debris with the floodwaters. The debris became a major obstruction when it collided with the Southern Pacific’s railroad trestle at Susanville’s Lassen Street. On December 23rd Marvin D. Coltran, a member of Southern Pacific’s bridge gang fell into the water there. Efforts were made to reach him, but the river’s swift current swept him away.

Relief from the rains arrived in the form of snow on December 28, when four inches fell in Susanville. In December 13.03 inches of rainfall was recorded in Susanville. On a final note, the railroad sustained tremendous damage between Susanville and Westwood. As Fruit Growers had already announced the closure of the lumber mill at Westwood, the Southern Pacific decided to close that segment of the railroad.

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