Exactly 122 years ago this week, storm clouds that had gathered over the Plains States moved east and ripped open over southwestern Pennsylvania. Flooding and rising rivers caused destruction, but that turned out to be just the beginning of what we remember now as the Johnstown Flood. It was on May 31, 1889 that the South Fork Dam burst right above the town of Johnstown and 20 million tons of water poured below. Over 2,000 townspeople lost their lives in the devastation.
The Johnstown Flood has become part of American lore and legend, often cited in fiction and song, but the actual facts of the story are as astonishing as any Hollywood disaster film. Historian David McCullough has written a comprehensive book about the tragedy, and we also have an excellent documentary on DVD. With recent natural disasters still fresh in our minds, we're reminded of this tragic chapter in American history and the lives lost, 122 years ago today.