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TIMES PAST: JAN. 5, 1916

After the Rain, a Flood of Litigation

January 05, 2006

The Southland was hit by the first in a wave of storms that dumped 11.4 inches of rain. The resulting floods killed 20 people and sparked a flurry of lawsuits, many of them aimed at rainmaker Charles Mallory Hatfield, who billed himself as a "Moisture Accelerator." The city of San Diego had hired Hatfield to coax precipitation from the clouds. His career inspired a Broadway play that became the 1956 film "The Rainmaker," starring Burt Lancaster. Just like Bill Starbuck in the movie, the self-proclaimed miracle worker persuaded towns from Canada to Honduras to buy what he was selling: "science," magic -- or perhaps hope.

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