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Encyclopedia > Johnstown Flood

The Johnstown Flood disaster (or Great Flood of 1889 as it became known locally) occurred on May 31, 1889. It was the result of the failure of the South Fork Dam situated 14 miles (23 km) upstream of the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, made worse by several days of extremely heavy rainfall. The dam's failure unleashed a torrent of 20 million tons of water (18.1 million cubic meters/ 4.8 billion gallons). The flood killed over 2,200 people and produced US$17 million of damage. It was the first major disaster relief effort handled by the new American Red Cross, led by Clara Barton. Support for victims came from all over the United States and 18 foreign countries. is the 151st day of the year (152nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1889 (MDCCCLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Sunday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ... The South Fork Dam was located on Lake Conemaugh, an artificial body of water located near South Fork, Pennsylvania. ... Nickname: Location of Pennsylvania within the USA Johnstown, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Coordinates: , Country State County Cambria Government  - Mayor Tom Trigona Area  - City  6. ... This article is about precipitation. ... Emergency operations or Emergency preparedness is a set of doctrines to prepare civil society to cope with natural or man-made disasters. ... A WWII-era poster encouraged American women to volunteer for the Red Cross as part of the war effort. ... Famed American nurse Clara Barton, first president of the American Red Cross. ...

Debris above the Pennsylvania railroad bridge
Debris above the Pennsylvania railroad bridge

Contents

Download high resolution version (599x895, 105 KB)The aftermath of the Johnstown Flood. ... Download high resolution version (599x895, 105 KB)The aftermath of the Johnstown Flood. ...

History

Founded in 1793 by Swiss immigrant Joseph Johns, Johnstown began to prosper with the building of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal in 1836 and the arrival of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Cambria Iron Works in the 1850s. By 1889, Johnstown was a town of Welsh and German immigrants. With a population of 30,000, it was a growing industrial community known for the quality of its steel. Map The Main Line of Public Works was a railroad and canal system built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, running from Philadelphia west across the state to Pittsburgh. ... 1893 map The Pennsylvania Railroad (AAR reporting mark PRR) was an American railroad that was founded in 1846 and merged in 1968 into Penn Central Transportation. ... For other uses, see Steel (disambiguation). ...


The high, steep hills of the narrow Conemaugh Valley and the Allegheny Mountains range to the east kept development close to the riverfront areas, and subjected the valley to large amounts of rain and snowfall. The area surrounding the town of Johnstown was prone to flooding due to its position at the confluence of the Stony Creek and Little Conemaugh River, forming the Conemaugh River, and to the artificial narrowing of the riverbed for the purposes of development. The Allegheny Mountain Range (also spelled Alleghany and Allegany) -- informally, the Alleghenies -- is part of the Appalachian Mountain Range of the eastern United States. ... A flood (in Old English flod, a word common to Teutonic languages; compare German Flut, Dutch vloed from the same root as is seen in flow, float) is an overflow of water, an expanse of water submerging land, a deluge. ... The Little Conemaugh River is a tributary of the Conemaugh River, approximately 30 mi (48 km) long, in western Pennsylvania in the United States. ... The Conemaugh River is a tributary of the Kiskiminetas River, approximately 70 mi (113 km) long, in western Pennsylvania in the United States. ...


South Fork Dam and Lake Conemaugh

High in the mountains, near the small town of South Fork, the South Fork Dam was originally built between 1838 and 1853 by the State of Pennsylvania as part of the canal system to be used as a reservoir for the canal basin in Johnstown. It was abandoned by the state, sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad, and sold again to private interests. South Fork is a borough located in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. ... The South Fork Dam was located on Lake Conemaugh, an artificial body of water located near South Fork, Pennsylvania. ... This article is about the U.S. State. ... For other uses, see Canal (disambiguation). ... The Ashokan Reservoir, located in Ulster County, New York, USA. It is one of 19 that supplies New York City with drinking water. ... 1893 map The Pennsylvania Railroad (AAR reporting mark PRR) was an American railroad that was founded in 1846 and merged in 1968 into Penn Central Transportation. ...


Speculators had purchased the abandoned reservoir, modified it, and converted it into a private resort lake for the wealthy of Pittsburgh. The changes included lowering the dam to make its top wide enough to hold a road, putting a fish screen in the spillway (that also trapped debris), and raising the lake level. These alterations are thought to have increased the vulnerability of the dam. They built cottages and a clubhouse to create the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, an exclusive and secretive mountain retreat. Members included over 50 wealthy Pittsburgh steel, coal, and railroad industrialists, among them Andrew Carnegie, Andrew Mellon, Henry Clay Frick, Philander Knox, and Robert Pitcairn. Pittsburgh redirects here. ... Spillway of Llyn Brianne dam in Wales A Spillway is a structure used to provide for the controlled release of flood flows from a dam or levee into a downstream area, typically being the river that has been dammed. ... The South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club Was a club composed of over 50 extremely wealthy men which operated an exclusive and secretive retreat at a mountain lake near South Fork, Pennsylvania. ... Coal Example chemical structure of coal Coal (pronounced ) is a fossil fuel formed in swamp ecosystems where plant remains were saved by water and mud from oxidization and biodegradation. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Business magnate. ... Andrew Carnegie (last name pronounced IPA: )[1] (November 25, 1835 – August 11, 1919) was a Scottish industrialist, businessman, a major philanthropist, and the founder of Pittsburghs Carnegie Steel Company which later became U.S. Steel. ... Mellon portrait Andrew William Mellon (March 24, 1855–August 27, 1937) was an American banker, industrialist, philanthropist, and Secretary of the Treasury from March 4, 1921 until February 12, 1932. ... Henry Clay Frick Henry Clay Frick (December 19, 1849 – December 2, 1919) was an American industrialist and art patron. ... Philander C. Knox Philander Chase Knox (May 6, 1853–October 12, 1921) was an American lawyer and politician who served as Attorney General and U.S. Senator and was Secretary of State from 1909-1913. ... Robert Pitcairn, born 1836 at Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland, was a Scottish-American railroad executive who headed the Pittsburgh Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad in the late 19th century. ...


Lake Conemaugh at the club's site was 450 feet (137 m) in elevation above Johnstown. The lake was about two miles (3 km) long, approximately one mile (1.6 km) wide, and 60 feet (18 m) deep near the dam. The lake had a perimeter of 7 miles (11 km) to hold 20 million tons of water. When the water was at its highest point in the spring, the lake covered over 400 acres (1.6 km²). Lake Conemaugh was an artificial body of water located near South Fork, Pennsylvania behind the South Fork Dam. ...


The dam was 72 feet (22 m) high and 931 feet (284 m) long. Between 1881 when the club was opened, and 1889, the dam frequently sprung leaks and was patched, mostly with mud and straw. Additionally a previous owner removed and sold for scrap the 3 cast iron discharge pipes that previously allowed a controlled release of water. There had been some speculation as to the dam's integrity, and concerns had been raised by the head of the Cambria Iron Works downstream in Johnstown. However, no major corrective action was taken, and the flawed dam held the waters of Lake Conemaugh back until the disaster of May 31, 1889. is the 151st day of the year (152nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1889 (MDCCCLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Sunday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ...


The Great Flood of 1889

On May 28, 1889, a storm formed over Nebraska and Kansas, moving east. When the storm struck the Johnstown-South Fork area two days later it was the worst downpour that had ever been recorded in that section of the country. The U.S. Army Signal Corps estimated that 6 to 10 inches (150 to 250 mm) of rain fell in 24 hours over the entire section. During the night small creeks became roaring torrents, ripping out trees and debris. Telegraph lines were downed and rail lines were washed out. Before daybreak the Conemaugh River that ran through Johnstown was about to leave its banks. is the 148th day of the year (149th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1889 (MDCCCLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Sunday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ... Official language(s) English Capital Lincoln Largest city Omaha Largest metro area Omaha Area  Ranked 16th  - Total 77,421 sq mi (200,520 km²)  - Width 210 miles (340 km)  - Length 430 miles (690 km)  - % water 0. ... This article is about the U.S. state. ... The U.S. Army Signal Corps was founded in 1861 by United States Army Major Albert J. Myer, a physician by training. ... This article is about precipitation. ... Telegraphy (from the Greek words tele = far away and grapho = write) is the long distance transmission of written messages without physical transport of letters, originally over wire. ... The Conemaugh River is a tributary of the Kiskiminetas River, approximately 70 mi (113 km) long, in western Pennsylvania in the United States. ...


During the day, the situation worsened as water rose in the streets of Johnstown. Then, in the middle of the afternoon of May 31st, the South Fork Dam, 14 miles (23 km) upstream, burst, allowing the 20 million tons of Lake Conemaugh to cascade down the Little Conemaugh River. On its way downstream towards Johnstown, the crest picked up debris, such as trees, houses, and animals. Occasionally this debris formed a temporary dam at narrow parts of the canyon, which caused water to build up behind this dam before breaking through. Because of this, the force of the surge would gain strength periodically, resulting in a stronger force hitting Johnstown than otherwise would be expected. Just before hitting the main part of the city, the flood surge hit the Cambria Iron Works, taking with it railroad cars and barbed wire. The South Fork Dam was located on Lake Conemaugh, an artificial body of water located near South Fork, Pennsylvania. ... Lake Conemaugh was an artificial body of water located near South Fork, Pennsylvania behind the South Fork Dam. ...


The inhabitants of the town of Johnstown were caught by surprise as the wall of water and debris bore down on the village, traveling at 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) and reaching a height of 60 feet (18 m) in places. Some, realizing the danger, tried to escape, but most people were hit by the surging floodwater. Many people were crushed by pieces of debris, and others became caught in barbed wire from the wire factory upstream. Those who sought safety in attics, or managed to stay aloft of the flood water on pieces of floating debris, waited hours for help to arrive.


At Johnstown, the Stone Bridge, which was a substantial arched structure, carried the Pennsylvania Railroad across the Conemaugh River. The debris that was carried by the flood formed a temporary dam, stopping further progress of the water. The flood surge bounced upstream along the Stoney Creek river. Eventually, gravity caused the surge to return to the dam, causing a second wave to hit the city, but from a different direction.[1] Some people who had been washed downstream became trapped in an inferno as debris that had piled up against the Stone Bridge caught fire, killing 80 people. The fire at the Stone Bridge burned for three days. Afterwards, the pile of debris there covered 30 acres (120,000 m²). As of 2007, the Stone Bridge is still standing, and is often portrayed as one of the images of the flood. The Stone Bridge spans the Conemaugh River in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. ... 1893 map The Pennsylvania Railroad (AAR reporting mark PRR) was an American railroad that was founded in 1846 and merged in 1968 into Penn Central Transportation. ... The Conemaugh River is a tributary of the Kiskiminetas River, approximately 70 mi (113 km) long, in western Pennsylvania in the United States. ...


Aftermath

Schultz house at Johnstown, PA in 1889
Schultz house at Johnstown, PA in 1889
Main Street after flood.
Main Street after flood.

The total death toll for the disaster was 2,209 dead. 99 entire families had died, including 396 children. 124 women and 198 men were left without their spouses, 98 children lost both parents. 777 victims (1 of every 3 bodies found) were never identified and rest in the Plot of the Unknown in Grandview Cemetery. Schultz house at Johnstown, PA in 1889 File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Schultz house at Johnstown, PA in 1889 File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 546 pixelsFull resolution‎ (2,780 × 1,896 pixels, file size: 1. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 546 pixelsFull resolution‎ (2,780 × 1,896 pixels, file size: 1. ...


Working seven days and nights, workmen replaced the huge stone railroad viaduct that had all but disappeared in the flood. Torontos Bloor Street Viaduct bridges the Don valley; road traffic uses the upper deck, rail traffic uses the lower deck. ...


It was the worst flood to hit the U.S. in the 19th century. 1,600 homes were destroyed, $17 million in property damage was done, and four square miles (10 km²) of downtown Johnstown were completely destroyed. Clean-up operations continued for years.


The Pennsylvania Railroad restored service to Pittsburgh, 55 miles (89 km) away, by June 2. Food, clothing, medicine and other provisions began arriving. Morticians came by railroad. Johnstown’s first call for help requested coffins and undertakers. Demolition expert "Dynamite Bill" Flinn and his 900-man crew cleared the wreckage at the Stone Bridge. They carted off debris, distributed food, and erected temporary housing. At its peak, the army of relief workers totaled about 7,000. 1893 map The Pennsylvania Railroad (AAR reporting mark PRR) was an American railroad that was founded in 1846 and merged in 1968 into Penn Central Transportation. ... Pittsburgh redirects here. ... is the 153rd day of the year (154th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... This article is about the vocation of a mortician and the death metal band; for the World Wrestling Entertainment superstar, see The Undertaker. ... An open coffin A coffin is a box used for the display and burial or cremation of a dead human body. ... This article is about the vocation of a mortician and the death metal band; for the World Wrestling Entertainment superstar, see The Undertaker. ... For other uses, see Demolition (disambiguation). ... Dynamite is an explosive based on the explosive potential of nitroglycerin, initially using diatomaceous earth (kieselguhr) as an adsorbent. ...


One of the first outsiders to arrive was Clara Barton (1821-1912), nurse and president of the American Red Cross. Barton arrived on June 5, 1889 to lead the group's first major disaster relief effort and didn't leave for over 5 months. She and many other volunteers worked tirelessly. Donations for the relief effort came from all over the United States and overseas. $3,742,818.78 was collected for the Johnstown relief effort from within the U.S. and 18 foreign countries, including Russia, Turkey, France, Great Britain, Australia and Germany. Famed American nurse Clara Barton, first president of the American Red Cross. ... This article is about the occupation. ... A WWII-era poster encouraged American women to volunteer for the Red Cross as part of the war effort. ... is the 156th day of the year (157th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1889 (MDCCCLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Sunday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ...


Continued flooding

Floods have continued to be a concern for Johnstown. A "500 year flood" was a massive event that hydrologists predicted had only a one-in-500 chance in happening in any given year. These predictions are based upon natural events, and do not take into account an upstream dam failure. A one-hundred year flood is calculated to be the maximum level of flood water expected to occur on average once every one hundred years. ... Hydrology is the study of the occurrence, distribution, and movement of water on, in, and above the earth. ...


Johnstown experienced additional major flooding in subsequent years, especially in 1894, 1907 and 1924. The most significant flood of the first half of the 20th century was the St. Patrick's Day Flood of March 1936, which also reached Pittsburgh and became known as the great Pittsburgh Flood of 1936. On March 17 and 18, 1936 the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania witnessed the worst of any flood in its history when flood levels peaked at 46 feet. ...


More recently, on the night of July 19, 1977, a relentless storm reminiscent of 1889 bombarded the city and the rivers began to rise. By dawn, the city was under water that crested as high as eight feet (2.4 m). The seven county disaster area suffered $200 million in property damage and 80 lost lives. Another 50,000 were rendered homeless as a result of the "500 year flood." is the 200th day of the year (201st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Also: 1977 (album) by Ash. ...


Blame

In the years following the event, many people blamed the members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club for the tragedy. The club had bought and repaired the dam to turn the area into a holiday retreat in the mountains. However, they were accused of failing to properly maintain the dam, so that it was unable to contain the additional water of the unusually heavy rainfall. Despite the accusations and evidence, they were never held legally responsible for the disaster. Though a suit was filed, the court held the dam break an Act of God, and granted the survivors no legal compensation. Act of God is a common legal term for events outside of human control, such as sudden floods or other natural disasters, for which no one can be held responsible. ...


Individual members of the club did contribute substantially to the relief efforts. Along with about half of the club members, Henry Clay Frick donated thousands of dollars to the relief effort in Johnstown. After the flood, Andrew Carnegie, one of the club's better known members, built the town a new library. In modern times, this former library is owned by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, and houses the Flood Museum. Remnants of the dam are preserved as part of Johnstown Flood National Memorial, established in 1964. Johnstown Flood National Memorial was established in 1964 in southern Pennsylvania to commemorate the victims of the Johnstown Flood. ...


The "Johnstown Flood" Tax

As a result of the damage from the 1936 flood, the Pennsylvania General Assembly imposed an emergency tax on all alcohol sold in the Commonwealth. The "temporary" 10% tax was initially intended to help pay for clean up, recovery, and assistance to flood victims. The tax was never repealed and in 1963 the tax was raised to 15% and again in 1968 to 18% (not including the statewide 6% sales tax). The near $200 million collected annually no longer goes to flood victims, however, instead going into the general fund for discretionary use by law makers.[2]


The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue states that, "All liquors sold by the LCB are subject to this tax which is computed on the actual price paid by the consumer including mark-up, handling charge and federal tax. The first sale of liquor also is subject to the sales and use tax at the time of purchase."[3]


In Literature and Music

Dark fantasy author Caitlín R. Kiernan made the Johnstown Flood the central focus of her 1994 short story, "To This Water (Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 1889)," which appears in her collection, Tales of Pain and Wonder. In the story, the flood serves as a catalyst for revenge in what is essentially a ghost story. Dark fantasy is a subgenre that combines elements of fantasy, including marvelous abilities, with those of horror. ... Caitlín Rebekah Kiernan (born May 26, 1964 in Skerries, Dublin, Ireland) is the author of many science fiction and dark fantasy works, including six novels, many comic books, more than one hundred published short stories, novellas, and vignettes, and numerous scientific papers. ... Cover art by Richard A. Kirk Tales of Pain and Wonder (2000) is Caitlin R. Kiernans first short-story collection. ... A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or the belief of some character(s) in them. ...


Bruce Springsteen's song "Highway Patrolman" from the Nebraska album (1982) references the event. The narrator of the song and his brother take turns "dancing with Maria, as the band played 'Night of the Johnstown Flood.'" Springsteen redirects here. ...


Catherine Marshall wrote a historical fiction novel Julie about a teenage girl in a small Pennsylvania town below an earthen dam not properly maintained by the Hunting and Fishing Club. Although set in the 1930's instead of 1889, this is a much researched account of the Johnstown flood. Biography Catherine Marshall was a Christian author and the wife of well-known Presbyterian minister Peter Marshall. ... Look up Julie in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


Brian Booker's short story A Drowning Accident, published by the literary periodical One Story (Issue #57, May 30th 2005) was largely based on and influenced by the Johnstown Flood of 1889.[4] One Story is a literary magazine which publishes 18 issues a year, each containing a single story. ...


Murray Leinster had his two time travellers unable to convince the Johnstown population of the coming disaster in his 1966 novel 'The Time Tunnel'.


The Johnstown flood is mentioned in Rudyard Kipling's book Captains Courageous as the disaster that wiped out Pennsylvania Pratt's family causing his mind to give out. He briefly returns to reality, becoming his former self and recalling the disaster when a steamship runs down another fishing boat. This article is about the British author. ... Captains Courageous is an 1897 novel, by Rudyard Kipling, that follows the adventures of fifteen year old Harvey Cheyne Jr. ...


Pulitzer prize-winning historian David McCullough devotes an entire volume to the disaster in his book titled, "The Johnstown Flood". David Gaub McCullough (mÉ™-kÅ­lÉ™) (born July 7, 1933) is an American historian and bestselling author. ...


Michael Dudek, a Johnstown resident and author, references the Johnstown Flood in his book "The Fairytale of the Morley Dog". The book is a fantasy about the Morley Dog (famous to Johnstown residents) and his adventures. In the book the dog is claimed to be seen saving children from the flood waters.


The foreseen flood figured prominently in the plot of Paul Mark Tag's novel Prophecy. Paul Mark Tag is a retired meteorologist who now writes professionally. ...


Marden A. Dahlstedt, a young readers author, wrote one girl's account of the flood in her 1972 book, "The Terrible Wave".


Notes

  1. ^ History of the Johnstown Flood, Willis Fletcher Johnson (1889), pp 61-64. Available on CD-ROM from [1]
  2. ^ WGAL.com
  3. ^ Official PA state web site
  4. ^ http://www.one-story.com/index.php?page=story&story_id=57

References

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain. Encyclopædia Britannica, the eleventh edition The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–1911) is perhaps the most famous edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ...

  • David McCullough, "The Johnstown Flood", ISBN 0-671-20714-8
  • R. O'Connor, "Johnstown- The Day The Dam Broke" (1957)
  • Willis Fletcher Johnson, "History of the Johnstown Flood" (1889). [2]

David Gaub McCullough (mÉ™-kÅ­lÉ™) (born July 7, 1933) is an American historian and bestselling author. ...

See also

Vajont Dam is a dam completed in 1961 under Mount Toc, 100 km north of Venice, Italy. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Johnstown Flood (1586 words)
It is certain that the residents of South Fork, Conemaugh, Woodvale, and Johnstown, in the Conemaugh Valley, were in constant dread of the consequences of the bursting of the reservoir.
Repeatedly, during time of flood, reports had been circulated that the reservoir dam had broke, and finally, when this report proved to be true, the people were incredulous, and their incredulity is responsible in part for the loss of life.
Above the roar of the flood, the crash of falling timber, and the swirl of rushing waters were heard the groans of the dying, the wails of the mangled, and the agonizing cries for help from strong men, fainting women, and helpless children.
Johnstown Flood - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1899 words)
By 1889, Johnstown was a town of Welsh and German immigrants.
The area surrounding the town of Johnstown was prone to flooding due to its position at the confluence of Stony Creek and Little Conemaugh River, forming the Conemaugh River, and to the artificial straightening of these rivers for the purposes of development.
The inhabitants of the town of Johnstown were caught by surprise as the wall of water and debris bore down on the village, traveling at 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) and reaching a height of 60 feet (18 m) in places.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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