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CE 360 Extra Credit Paper

CE 360 Extra Credit Paper

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Published by Ryan Murphy

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Published by: Ryan Murphy on Apr 26, 2012
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Ryan MurphyCE 360 Extra Credit ReportApril 6, 2012
Johnstown Flood of 1889 and the South Fork Dam
For my extra credit paper I decided to do a report on the Johnstown Flood of 1889,which was caused by the South Fork Dam breaking due to heavy rains and failure to fixproblems with the dam. I chose this topic because I am from the Central PA area and familiarwith the disaster. I will talk about the problems behind the dam, which led to the devastationand loss of many lives on May 31, 1889, and discuss how the problems related to the CE 360course.
Story of the Johnstown Flood and Facts about It
The Flood occurred on May 31, 1889 due to the failure of the South Fork Dam. The damreleased about 20 million tons of water, which is about 4.8 billion gallons. The water thensoared down a river in a valley, wrecking small towns in its paths on its way towards Johnstown.This can be seen in the diagram below.
It took about 40 minutes for the entire lake to drain out all of the water. On its waydownstream toward Johnstown, the crest picked up debris, such as trees, houses, and animals.At the Conemaugh Viaduct, a 78-foot high railroad bridge, the flood was temporarily stoppedwhen debris jammed against the stone bridge's arch. But eventually, the viaduct collapsed,which allowed the flood to resume on its path towards Johnstown. Because of this, the force of the surge gained renewed momentum, resulting in a stronger force hitting Johnstown thenwhat would have been expected. The small town of Mineral Point, about one mile below theConemaugh Viaduct, was hit with this renewed force. Roughly 30 families lived in the smallvillage of Mineral Point, which had a single street. After the flood hit the village, only a barerock remained. The village of East Conemaugh was next to be hit by the flood. Just beforehitting the main part of the city, the flood surge hit the Cambria Iron Works at the town of Woodvale, taking with it railroad cars and barbed wire. Boilers exploded when the flood hit theGautier Wire Works, causing black smoke, which could be seen by the Johnstown residents.Some 57 minutes after the South Fork Dam failed, the flood finally hit Johnstown. Theinhabitants of Johnstown were caught by surprise as the wall of water and debris hit the townwith a powerful force, traveling at 40 miles per hour and reaching a height of 60 feet in someplaces.
After the flood hit, it left utter destruction. The flood caused over 17 million dollars’
worth of damage and killed over 2,200 people. It was the first major disaster relief efforthandled by the new American Red Cross
and was the nation’s worst disas
ter at the time. Onlythe 1900 Galveston Hurricane and the 9/11 attacks would have a greater death toll than theJohnstown flood.
 Some other facts include:
• Bodies were found as far away as Cincinnati, and as late as 1911• 1,600 homes were destroye
• Four square miles of downtown Johnstown were completely destroyed • The pile of debris at the stone bridge covered 30 acres• The distance between the dam that failed and Johnstown was 14 miles.
• The dam contained 20 million tons of water befor 
e it gave way, about the same amount of water as goes over Niagara Falls in 36 minutes.
• Flood lines were found as high as 89 feet above river level • The great wave measured 35
-40 feet high and hit Johnstown at 40 miles per hour 
• The force of the f 
lood swept several locomotives weighing 170,000 pounds as far as 4,800 feet 
• $3,742,818.78 was collected for the Johnstown relief effort from within the U.S. and 18 foreign
99 entire families died, including 396 children
 As you can see, the disaster of the South Fork Dam breaking was a huge deal not onlyfor the surrounding areas, but it was huge news across the nation. Next, I will discuss theproblems that caused the dam to break.
The South Fork Dam
The dam was 72 feet high and 931 feet long. Behind it was Lake Conemaugh, which wasabout 2 miles long, approximately 1 mile wide, and 60 feet deep near the dam. This lakecontained 20 million tons (or 4.8 billions gallons) of water. The dam had been recently bought

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