Howe drove back to his house, where he stuffed the end of a 5-foot-long piece of fuse into a blasting cap and crimped it with a pair of pliers. Then he unraveled one end of a stick of dynamite, pressed the blasting cap into it and put it back in the wooden case. Berry gouged a hole in the lid and pulled the fuse through.
They drove back to the aqueduct and resumed drinking. Shortly after midnight, they lugged the rigged case of dynamite about 30 yards up a hill to the gatehouse. Howe shoved it up against the middle of five gates, lit the fuse and started running.
A few minutes later they parked by the side of the road, and listened. Nothing.
They drove closer to the gates and stopped. “Bang. We heard the explosion.”
The blast ripped apart a 4-foot-wide steel gate that regulates the flow of water to the aqueduct. Windows were blown out of the gatehouse atop the spill gates and its concrete floor buckled.
About 100 million gallons of water meant for Los Angeles were instead flushed into Owens Lake, which had been dry since the Department of Water and Power opened the aqueduct in 1913.
On the way back to town, they dumped the second case of dynamite into shrubs. A minute later, a tire blew out. Berry changed it as Howe kept an eye out for law enforcement officers.
Word of the explosion spread instantly.
Inyo County Sheriff’s Det. Jim Bilyeu arrived at the scene to find a crowd applauding the smoldering damage. The air was filled with the bananalike smell of nitroglycerin.
“Initially, we thought it was done by the Weather Underground terrorist group because we had intelligence indicating they were planning to attack transmission towers in our area,” Bilyeu said. “But it didn’t take long to figure out the culprits were amateurs.”