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U.S. History Topics » Other History & Soc Studies » Natural Disasters

Run for Your Lives! The Johnstown Flood of 1889

commemorates the most devastating flood in the U.S. in the 19th century. On the wet afternoon of 05/31, 1889, the inhabitants Johnston, Pennsylvania, heard a low rumble that grew to a "roar like thunder." Some knew immediately what had happened: the South Fork Dam, after a night of heavy rain, had broken. The break sent a 36-foot wall of water rolling at 40 miles per hour toward Johnstown, a town of 30,000 people. More than 2,200 people were killed. (National Park Service, Teaching with Historic Places)

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The flood snapped large trees like sticks and turned them into battering rams that could pierce wall. Shattered buildings were thrown into piles three stories high, completely filling some blocks.

Aftermath of the flood

 This website also appears in:
U.S. History Topics »  States & Regions »  Pennsylvania
U.S. Time Periods »  1865-1920: Modern America » 

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