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  • May 2011
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Johnstown Flood

It has been raining a lot lately, and it has been getting me down—but it is nowhere near as bad the rainstorm that came through the area in 1889.

Today is the 122nd anniversary of the infamous Johnstown Flood, a catastrophe that killed over 2200 people and caused $17 million of damage ($407 million in today’s money).

This was not a natural disaster; the flood was caused by the failure of the South Fork Dam that held back Lake Conemaugh. The failure itself was caused by years of neglect and poor maintenance of the dam. One of the owners even sold parts of the dam for scrap!

A record downpour caused stress on the dam, and though some people tried to prevent it from eroding it was too little too late. On May 31, 1889, the dam failed and poured 22 million tons of water from Lake Conemaugh onto the small Southwestern Pennsylvania towns below.

The catastrophe has inspired many novel, including this novel in verse from last year:

Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood by Jame Richards

Sixteen-year-old Celestia is a wealthy member of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, where she meets and falls in love with Peter, a hired hand who lives in the valley below, and by the time of the torrential rains that lead to the disastrous Johnstown flood of 1889, she has been disowned by her family and is staying with him in Johnstown.

To learn more you can visit the Johnstown Area Heritage Association here or the Johnstown Flood National Memorial here.

~Eva, CLP-Allegheny

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