On Feb. 27, 1940, 2.5 inches of rain fell in six hours in Redding, Calif. The following day, rising flood waters closed three bridges leading out of town, including the north end of the newly constructed Market Street bridge, the east approach to the Free Bridge, and both approaches to the Diestelhorst Bridge.
A state of emergency was declared, and by the time the storm had ended, more than 42 inches of rain had fallen, roughly twice the annual rainfall. Several freight cars had been derailed along the railroad track and splashed into the river.
Firemen in boats rescued 50 people from their flooded homes, 400 were homeless in Redding and just as many were stranded in the Anderson area. While most people sought safety, hundreds of farm animals were lost. Two people died, including an 8-year-old boy, John Ammirati, Jr., who drowned in Castle Creek.
The hundreds of people who lived across the river from Redding walked two or three at a time across the Diestelhorst Bridge after signing liability releases. They had to walk through more than three feet of water after crossing over to the far side.
Source: Fitzpatrick, John. “The Last Flood.” The Covered Wagon, 1994, pp. 29-31.