May 31st, 2014 marks the 125th Anniversary of the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889
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May 31st, 2014 marks the 125th Anniversary of the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889
On May 31st, 1889 a catastrophic failure of the South Fork Dam on the Little Conemaugh River, approximately 14 miles upstream of Johnstown, Pennsylvania resulted in one of the worst natural catastrophes in the history of the United States, creating the largest loss of life from a natural disaster not caused by a hurricane or earthquake.

Intense heavy rains fell across the area in the day preceding the failure, and the poorly maintained earthen dam rapidly weakened and subsequently failed during the afternoon hours. This sudden failure sent a torrent of water down a steep canyon, into the heart of Johnstown. It was reported that the flood wave produced a wall of water 35 feet high and a half mile wide, moving rapidly down the narrow valley at 40 miles an hour! Historical reports indicate that there were a couple hours of warning given; but few people heeded the calls to move to higher ground, resulting in one of the greatest losses of human life in United State history. The flood and subsequent fires killed 2,209 people, while destroying 1,600 homes and produced $17 million in damages.

Flooding was also widespread across the state from this weather event. Major flooding was reported along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. The prosperous lumber town of Williamsport reported that 75 percent of the town was under water during the peak of the flooding. Major flooding was also reported in Tyrone, Lewistown, and Huntingdon, with a significant loss of life and property damage reported in the region.

This flood event also led the way for a series of river gages to be installed across the region in order to improve upon flood warnings.

Visit the Johnstown Flood Museum and the Johnstown Flood National Memorial Webages to learn more about this truly disaterous flood:

1889 Johnstown Flood - 1
1889 Johnstown Flood - 1

1889 Johnstown Flood - 2
1889 Johnstown Flood - 2

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Page Last Modified: 31 May 2014 00:57:41 UTC
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