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Plot & Details

Narrated by Richard Dreyfuss and directed by Mark Bussler, Johnstown Flood, tells the story of the massive flood that destroyed the town of Johnstown, PA, on May 31, 1889. Using old photos, etchings, recreated footage, and dramatic readings of first-hand accounts, this black-and-white film explores the history of the town, which, at the time of the flood, had become a major center of steel production in the U.S. Dreyfuss describes how the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, a resort for the wealthy (one of its patrons was Andrew Carnegie) allowed the dam to fall into disrepair and the reservoir to fill far higher than the engineers who built the dam had ever intended. Heavy rains contributed to the problem, and, on the day of the flood, the water overflowed and the dam collapsed, sending a huge gusher of water coursing through the Conemaugh River Valley, destroying everything in its path. When the water reached the town, nearly an hour later, the wave was cresting nearly 40 feet high. More than 2000 people were killed -- drowned, crushed by debris, or burned in fires caused by the cataclysm. In the aftermath, people around the country rallied to help the survivors rebuild the town. The DVD release features audio commentary from historian Richard Burkert of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association.

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