The Johnstown Flood, which took place on May 31, 1889, was a devastating occurrence in Pennsylvania, United States. The town of Johnstown and its surrounding environs were destroyed by the tremendous release of water caused by the catastrophic fall of the South Fork Dam.
Originally, the reservoir that included the South Fork Dam was built upstream in the Allegheny Mountains for a private hunting and fishing club’s use. The dam failed following a heavy downpour because of years of neglectful maintenance and alterations that compromised its stability.
An estimated 20 million tons of water rushed down the Conemaugh Valley after being released, destroying everything in its path. Johnstown was a busy industrial town that the floodwaters devastated in just a few short hours, taking the lives of almost 2,200 people and destroying tens of thousands of buildings.
One of the deadliest floods in U.S. history, the Johnstown Flood led to new restrictions on dam safety and improved disaster aid. A compelling and moving analysis of the Johnstown Flood can be found by reading a book on the subject. Human stories of grief and triumph are explored in the face of unfathomable destruction.