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History of the Johnstown Flood
According to his reckoning it was 2.45 when the stones in the centre of the dam began to sink because of the undermining, and within eight minutes a gap of twenty feet was made in the lower half of the wall face, through which the water poured as though forced by machinery of stupendous power. By 3 o'clock the toppling masonry, which before had partaken somewhat of the form of an arch fell in, and then the remainder of the wall opened outward like twin gates, and the great storage lake was foaming and thundering down the valley of the Conemaugh.
Webber became so awestruck at the catastrophe the he declares he was unable to leave the spot until the lake had fallen so low that it showed bottom fifty feet below him. How long a time elapsed he says he does not know before he recovered sufficient power of observation to notice this, but he does not think that more than five minutes passed. Webber says that had the dam been repaired after the spring freshet of 1888 the disaster would not have occurred. Had it been given ordinary attention in the spring of 1887 the probabilities are that thousands of lives would have been saved.
Imagine, if you can, a solid piece of ground, thirty-five feet wide and over one hundred feet high, and then, again, that a space of two hundred feet is cut out of it, through which is rushing over
30 Mar 2008
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Lynne Canterbury and Diann Olsen