Weather modification gone wrong in 1915: San Diego hires a rainmaker, the chemical cocktail produces floods

During a drought in California, Hatfield was hired by the San Diego city council with a four-to-one vote and promised $10,000 in a handshake deal if he could make it rain.

He convinced people he had the methods of creating rain from a chemical cocktail he formulated. Witnesses claimed he shot the chemicals into the air like bombs, spurting fumes and smoke to ascend into the sky and convince the cumulus clouds to send down rain.

Although Hatfield was considered a rainmaker, his original profession was a sewing machine salesman.

He convinced people he had the methods of creating rain from a chemical cocktail he formulated.

To inject his rainmaking concoction into clouds overhead, he built a 20-foot tower in the area and burned the chemical mixture from the top of the structure. Witnesses claimed he shot the chemicals into the air like bombs, spurting fumes and smoke to ascend into the sky and convince the cumulus clouds to send down rain.

Rainmaker Charles Hatfield, Rainmaker Charles Hatfield constructs his tower to modify the weather in San Diego in 1915.
Rainmaker Charles Hatfield constructs his tower to modify the weather in San Diego in 1915. via LA Times

On January 1, 1916, the rain started in San Diego and it didn’t stop for the entire month, resulting in 30 inches of rain. The floods destroyed the dam, washed out roads, lifted railroad tracks, caused property damage across the region and killed an estimated 14 to 50 citizens.

Rainmaker Charles Hatfield, Rainmaker Charles Hatfield constructs his tower to modify the weather in San Diego in 1915.
Illustration from March 30, 1924, Los Angeles Times during coverage of Charles Hatfield rainmaking work in Coalinga, Calif.

Hatfield never got his money. The city council claimed the floods were an act of God, not an act of Hatfield.

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