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Johnstown, Pennsylvania, situated in Cambria County and settled in 1770, is most famous for its three floods, the most devastating of which was the Great flood of 1889. At that time, Johnstown was a steel company town with approximately 30,000 people, mostly Welsh and Germans, which was built at the convergence of the Stony Creek and Little Conemaugh Rivers. The borough had prospered with the addition of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal in 1834 and the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1850s. But as the population grew and room was needed to build more homes, the banks of the rivers were narrowed, causing flooding each year as the rain season arrived. Additionally, the South Fork Dam was about fifteen miles upstream on the Little Conemaugh River.And it was built on a hill, 450 feet higher than Johnstown. For years, there had been discussion about whether or not the dam would hold another year, but no one seemed to take it seriously enough to actually do anything about it. And then, just after 4:00 in the afternoon on May 31, 1899, there was a loud but low rumbling which some described as a roar like thunder,” as the dam broke and 20 million tons of water came banging upon the banks at 40 miles per hour, leveling trees and structures as it crashed toward Johnstown. Mud and debris roiled through the wall of water and at times, that wall was estimated at 60 feet high. Thousands ran for their lives, and 10 minutes later, the deluge was over. More than 2,209 people died in the flood and the fire that followed as the debris caught fire. many of the bodies recovered were not identified, and hundreds more were not found at all. It took years for the cleanup to be completed, and workers found bodies even years after the flood had happened. Johnstown was incorporated as a city in December of 1889, just more than 6 months after the Great Flood.

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