preview

Essay on Johnstown Flood Disaster

Decent Essays
Johnstown Flood
May 31, 1889 was a day that brought terror to the small town of Johnstown Pennsylvania. The small town was established in 1794 as a steel town and had a population on 30,000. The cause of the flood actually starts not at the town but 14 upstream at the South Fork Dam were the Little Conemaugh and Stony Creeks rivers meet as you can see in the image below. At this place is Lake Conemaugh, a 3-mile long lake located up against the side of a mountain, 450 feet higher than Johnstown PA. The construction started in 1840 under the supervision of engineer William E. Morris but wasn't completed till 1852 due to financial difficulties. (Johnstown Historical Society) The dam itself spanned a gap of 918 feet across the valley
…show more content…
It didn't take long for the South Fork dam to become so overwhelmed that it broke and dumped water onto the town causing the deaths of 2,200 people. This was not the first problem they had with the dam though; structural problems with the dam were not a new development. Only two years after the finishing of the dam 2 leaks were discovered before the dam was even put into its full usage. They were forced to empty the dam so they could repair it. The dam suffered a major break on June 10, 1862, when the up-stream portion of the stone culvert running under the dam collapsed (Haddock, Vikki). There was little damage to property downstream, but a large section of the dam over the damaged portion of the culvert collapsed and was washed away. They dam was then closed and left with the large gap in it because of financial reasons until 1875 when the Pennsylvania Railroad sold the dam and also 500 acres to Benjamin Ruff who wanted to turn the area into a summer resort. Ruff's plan was to fill in the gap left in the dam and allow the lake behind it to refill to make a resort and the remaining water would run-off he had decided to sell the valves used to control the run-off for scrap metal (Johannson, Shelley). Ruff had hired a man to fill the gap who had some experience building railway embankments but no experience with dams. The plan was to add a double thickness of hemlock pilings was placed across
Get Access