Education: Johnstown Flood Museum

Johnstown Area Heritage Association
Primary source: Survivor stories

Survivors describe the Flood

C. C. Ramsey

I arose at the usual hour, and found the waters rising very rapidly – so fast, in fact, that the water covered the first floor before we had time to remove carpets and furniture to the upper floors, at the same time forcing the entire family to the second floor. At the hour of 10 A.M. we were surrounded by at least ten feet of water, which closed all channels of escape from that hour, as the current which swept through the street was so strong that any ordinary boat could make no progress against it. However, a boat was a luxury that we did not possess.

After 11 A.M. all was quiet even to the stillness of death; one could hear the swash of the waters, the voices of neighbors, or the bark of a dog. We were completely cut off from all communication, therefore, not knowing the South Fork reservoir had broken until it was upon us.

The roar of the mighty wave fell upon our ears, and with one impulse we rushed to the third floor, which we gained just in time, as at that instant a string of flat cars, coupled together, struck the house, demolishing the two lower floors, leaving us the mansard, which floated toward the stone bridge. During this time we, with great difficulty, reached the roof, upon which we remained until we wedged into the debris … within a few hundred yards of the Morrell Institute. It is beyond description; we can hardly remember, only we climbed over many houses, floating roofs, piles of debris, and finally the haven of safety was reached. During this time there continued a cold, driving rain which chilled one to the marrow.

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

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