Monday, June 2, 2014

The Great Johnstown Flood

 We headed out early on Saturday to attend a polkafest.  Once again we passed through lots of farm country and we saw these Texas Longhorns on our way.

 Look at those horns!   Click for a closer look.

 We passed lots of picturesque barns.

 Finally, we entered Johnstown. Now, I have heard about the Great Johnstown Flood since I was a little kid, it occurred in 1889.  I really never paid much attention to it though until this trip.  This is the Little Conemaugh River. Sitting high above this town is a reservoir called Lake Conemaugh. These concrete walls were not there when the flood came.  Interestingly, we were here on the 125th anniversary of the flood.

On May 31, 1889, this area received very heavy rains.

The dam on the reservoir broke and 20 million tons of water drained from the lake in 40 minutes.

As the water made it's way towards the city, it took out a factory that made barbed wire.  The wire from the factory was picked up by the water and acted like a net and collected debris along the way.

By the time it reached Johnstown, the wall of water and debris was 70 feet high.

You can see here how the river enters the town. People literally headed for the hills to avoid the tsunami-like event. Unfortunately, not many made it.

Over 2200 people died.  500 entire families were killed.  Over 350 children were orphaned. This was the first national disaster that the American Red Cross serviced.  Three days after the flood, Clara Barton arrived to help.

The flood did 17 million dollars in damage which would be roughly the equivalent of half a billion dollars today.  BTW, this is where the polkafest was to take place.  Pretty empty when we got there.  We were either really early or they were really late but we missed the polkafest.

We were very happy to visit this town though regardless of the missed festival.

Plus, we found this local hot dogs joint which made the drive worthwhile!  Texas Hots!

This shot is looking up the valley that the water flowed down. When we returned home I did some reading.  It seems that in the years just before the flood, the Carnegie's and the Frick's (wealthy steel men) bought the Lake area to build an exclusive summer resort for themselves and their friends.  They made changes to the lake to accommodate their development. These changes caused the dam on the reservoir to become unstable and the heavy rains caused the break.  Victims sued for damages but were never able to collect. After the suits were dropped, Carnegie built a library for the town and of course, put his name on it.  I've already ordered a book so I can read more about all of this.

It's still a scary area.