Education: Johnstown Flood Museum

Johnstown Area Heritage Association
Primary source: Survivor stories

Survivors describe the Flood

Miss J. Louise Mueller

Thrusting my head through an open window, and looking north-easterly, from which direction seemed to be coming an awful something, I saw what filled me with indescribable horror. A mountain of darkness from the very heavens down was pushing over on us, bringing houses and trees – a great mass of everything. The atmosphere was filled with spray, clouds of dust, flying particles of all kinds. My first impression was that the heavy clouds had broken down at the end of the heavens, and that the whole mass was gradually lowering. Then I wondered it if could be a cyclone, or of the nature of one, since there was such a strong breeze.

We never for a moment thought of Lake Conemaugh; and, if we had, I presume we would not have decided that was it; for this dark, cloudlike mass, bearing down upon us with everything before it, had not yet dissolved itself into anything, so far as we could see. The fast rising of the waters I attributed to the fact that they were accumulating because of the pressure of this immense body of something.

For several seconds we stood looking upon the moving mass before us. A good part of our city, in wreck and ruin, was sweeping out Market Street toward the Stoney Creek, almost immediately in front of us. Directly everything about us began to bend and sway like so many twigs. The crashing and creaking of the falling homes; the crunching of the moving particles driven by this black cloud; the dark waters about our feet; our own sensations as if all things, even old earth herself, moving off, getting away from us.

By this time the dark mass of cloud had disappeared. A great body of water was rushing madly about, tearing westward on the north side of us, and rushing eastward on the south side, apparently a perfect whirlpool, and carrying wreckage with it to which the people were clinging.

It was perfectly awful to see the people sweeping by on portions of their homes and fragments of all kinds, and with scarcely a hope of escape, entirely unable to steer their crafts to safety.

From Rev. Dr. David Beale's book Through the Johnstown Flood.

About Us | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | ©2013 Johnstown Area Heritage Association