The Great Flood Of 1889

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Also known as the “Great Flood of 1889,” the Johnstown flood occurred when a local man-made dam failed, unleashing millions of gallons of water and causing utter destruction in its wake.
On May 31st, 1889, at around 3:10 p.m., about 14 miles from Johnstown, PA, the South Fork Dam was overcome by several structural shortcomings and failed. This allowed millions of gallons of water to surge through the Conemaugh Valley, leaving little in its wake (NPS).
There were a total of 111 days of rainfall within the year preceding the dam’s failure. This level of rainfall was very unusual for the community of Johnstown, let alone the entire state of Pennsylvania. Just before the dam broke, 6-8 inches of rain had fallen throughout the region, turning
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These changes had disastrous effects on the structure of the dam (ASDSO).
• As large amount of rain fell, debris began to collect in the mesh netting, contributing to rising water levels, as the spillway was blocked (ASDSP).
• The lack of an underlying water relief system, as the previous one had not been replaced after the reconstruction, increased the pressure of the reservoir (ASDSO).
• The pressure of the added volume compromised the structure of the dam and it overtopped. The structure was overcome and the dam burst (ASDSO).
• Due to the nature of this dam break, the water traveled at high velocity- estimated at 64 km/hr or about 40 mph (National Geographic).
• The average amount of water discharged was around 318,000 cubic feet per second (JAHA).
• The flood killed approximately 2,209 people. This included 396 children and 99 local families (Begos, 2014).
• As many as 750 corpses remained in “river towns downstream” and “Johnstown morgues” awaiting family identification, which never happened (Begos, 2014).

• 1,600 homes were lost and whole communities were swept away (Begos, 2014).
• Trains were dislodged from their tracks and were swept downstream about 4,000 feet (JFM, 2013).
• The flood debris spanned “30
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