According to the U.S. National Weather Service, more than 125 people die each year in the United States alone due to floods. The loss of life caused by flash floods is even greater on a global scale. More people die in floods than in hurricanes, tornadoes and other significant weather-related events on average each year. Floods may pose hidden dangerous because fast-moving flood waters that are only as deep as two feet are enough to carry cars downstream, placing the vehicles’ occupants in a life-threatening situation. Furthermore, flood waters can rise significantly within a matter of minutes, making it difficult or impossible to escape. While all floods can be dangerous, some have had truly devastating effects with loss of life and property damage on an epic scale.
The Johnstown Flood was the deadliest flooding event in United States history. More than 2,200 people perished in the Johnstown Flood, and more than $17 million in property damages resulted. It rained heavily for several days leading up the flood, which occurred on May 31, 1889. The South Fork Dam, located on the Little Conemaugh River, was not strong enough to contain the water from the heavy rainfall. When the dam gave way, more than 20 million tons of water washed downstream. The town of Johnstown as the hardest hit by the failure of the dam, and it is located approximately 14 miles downstream of the dam. It is estimated that the flow of water from the dam’s collapse was approximately the same as that of the Mississippi River during the height of the flood.