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History of the Johnstown Flood
of leaks, that were faithfully carried out. The members of the club themselves discovered that the sewer that carried away the surplus or overflow from the lake was not large enough in times of storm. So five feet of solid rock were cut away in order to increase the mouth of the lake. Usually the surface of the water was 15 feet below the top of the dam, and never in recent years did it rise to more than eight feet. In 1881, when work was going on, a sudden rise occurred, and then the water threatened to do what it did on this occasion. The workmen hastened to the scene and piled debris of all sorts on the top and thus prevented a washout.
For more than a year there had been fears of a disaster. The foundations of the dam at South Fork were considered shaky early in 1888, and many increasing leakages were reported from time to time.
“We were afraid of the lake,” said a gentleman who had lived in Johnstown for years; “We were afraid of that lake seven years ago. No one could see the immense height to which that artificial dam had been built without fearing the tremendous power of the water behind it. The dam must have had a sheer height of 100 feet, thus forcing the water that high above its natural bed, and making a lake at least three miles long and a mile wide, out of what could scarcely be
30 Mar 2008
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Lynne Canterbury and Diann Olsen