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The Johnstown Flood (1989)

 |  Documentary, Short
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 76 users  
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On May 30, 1889 the South Fork Dam, which maintained a pleasure lake for wealthy Pittsburgh industrialists and their families, failed due to very heavy rains and poor maintenance by the ... See full summary »


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On May 30, 1889 the South Fork Dam, which maintained a pleasure lake for wealthy Pittsburgh industrialists and their families, failed due to very heavy rains and poor maintenance by the dam's owners. The burst dam sent a wall of water and debris, 40 feet high and half a mile wide, 14 miles downstream to the bustling industrial city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. More than 2000 people lost their lives in the disaster. This documentary tells the story, and tells us that the disaster was easily avoidable. Written by Martin Lewison <>

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Home Sweet (Wet) Home
19 January 2000 | by (Greensboro, NC) – See all my reviews

I grew up in Johnstown, PA, and I return each year to visit relatives and friends. The old hometown never really recovered after the numerous floods through the years and then the shutdown of the coal mines and steel mills.

You have to see the layout of this town in a deep, deep valley to understand the making of the disaster. Now you can learn all about it at a National Monument (where the dam was that broke) - the only one I ever saw created around a disaster. Anyway, this film does a good job of teaching you what lead up to the 1888 tragedy (as usual, greed and inept, uncaring people) and its aftermath. However, the numerous smaller floods after that came from different causes, primarily the unfortunate location of the town and too much rain all at one time.

Watch this and learn what can (still) happen if you don't protect your community and its environment.

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