The Johnstown Flood: What Happened?
No individual raindrop ever considers itself responsible for the flood. -Source Unknown
Johnstown is a city in southwestern Pennsylvania. The health care industry is the city’s largest employer. Tourism, coal mining, and the production of steel, textiles, transportation devices, and wood products also contribute to the way the economy stands. The University of Pittsburgh is also located in Johnstown. Johnstown was named after a Swiss immigrant, Joseph Johns who settled this land in 1793. In 1889, Johnstown became a city. This was also the same year that one of the worst natural disasters occurred in American history – The Johnstown Flood. Located 14 miles above Johnstown was the South Fork Dam. The original engineer of the South Fork Dam was William E. Morris. The dam was built from the period of 1838-1853 to be used with the Pennsylvania Canal System. A huge lake was formed from the building of the dam. Shortly after completion of the dam, the Pennsylvania Railroad built its first rail line across the state and the dam was no longer needed. After sitting abandoned for thirteen years, the South Fork Dam was sold to Mr. Benjamin Ruff in 1879. The dam was in very bad shape, so Ruff recruited 15 other gentlemen to help him in restoring the dam and building a summer resort. Ruff stocked the man- made lake, which was called Lake Conemaugh, with fish thus calling the resort the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club. Ruff and his crew did not make enough repairs because the dam lacked discharge pipes at the bottom of the dam that would allow them to drain the water. For many years, the lack of repairs to the dam did not cause a problem, but that all changed on May 28, 1889. The rain had been coming down for two days causing the South Fork Dam to rise rapidly at one foot per hour. The man-made lake had grown from its usual 407 acres to 450 acres. The men had been watching the dam to see if it would break. When the...
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