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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Remembering the Victims - 1977 Flood

I've decided to repost what I wrote about the flood last year for a couple of different reasons - but the main one is because - I have run across people actually making fun of the flood - on my site (their comments never make it thru now) along with another site - where some people are down right nasty. I can't take it - but I guess some people are just born being an ass!
Here you go: I've been thinking for a long time what I was going to say on this anniversary of the 1977 Johnstown Flood and I think the best thing I can think of - is to simply take a moment to remember the names of the victims - who sometimes get overlooked because those of us that survived are too busy telling our own tales. But for you younger readers - I want you to understand why you should pay attention when you hear stories about the flood - it's special because done of us ever thought it would happen again - let alone to us.
The monument in Central Park.
In all 80 men, women and children died and 8 victims are still missing to this day.
LIST OF VICTIMS:
Old Conemaugh Borough
Julie A. Luther - Age 8
Mary Ann Luther - Age 36
Hornerstown
Kimberly Keck - Age 23
Michael Vincent Keck - Age 3
Vincent Keck - Age 28
Michelle Keck - Age 2 - Still Missing
Walnut Grove
Helen Schofield - Age 61
James E. Schofield - Age 28
Donald Cover Jr. - Age 23
West End
Nancy Cooper - Age 30
Dale Borough
Marie C. Cobaugh - Age 70
Edith Faye Emmel - Age 41
Judy Emmel - Age 7
William H. Emmel - Age 43
Robert Leroy Hershberger - Age 89
Norman J. Pfeil - Age 63
Raymond Rhoads - Age 34 - Still Missing
James Edward Smith - Age 39
Todd James Smith - Age 7
Troy Jay Smith - Age 8
--------------------------------------
LIST OF VICTIMS:
Seward
Shawn Michael Dixon - Age 11 - Still Missing
Florence Lydic - Still Missing
Strongstown
Robert Stephens - Age 40 (Stevens)
Tanneryville
Allen Lee Blough - Age 29
Desire Blough - Age 2
Jennifer Blough - Age 28
Melvin Boring - Age 36
Elvie Bowser - Age 68
Jack F. Cale - Age 67
Eliza Ann Daroczy - Age 61
Cynthia Gibson - Age 8
Ernest Shawn Gibson - Age 12
Tammy Gibson - Age 30
Theresa Gibson - Age 46
Donald Merle Keiper - Age 54
Debra Ann Mavrich - Age 15
Carol Ann Pavlosky - Age 34
Helen Pilot - Age 59
Stanley Pilot Sr. - Age 63 - Still Missing
George Piskurich - Age 64
Olga Piskurich - Age 60
Katherine Rishell - Age 55
Kathy Rishell - Age 5
LIST OF VICTIMS:
Tanneryville
Thomas Rishell - Age 34
Theodore G. Rummel - Age 64
Barbara Selders - Age 40
Robert Selders - Age 42
Donna Sowerbrower - Age 16
Mark Sowerbrower Jr. - Age 4 months - Still Missing
Charles A. Stoner Jr. - Age 59
Louella Elizabeth Stoner - Age 57
Sharen Stoner - Age 24
Sheldon W. Stoner - Age 23
Dorothy Teeter - Age 50
Allen Thomas - Age 40
Pamela Thomas - Age 10
Patricia Thomas - Age 36
Sandra Thomas - Age 12
Edith Fern Weaver - Age 55
Kenneth Weaver - Age 73
Shirley Bailey - Age 41 - Still Missing
Melissa Mitchell - Age 10 - Still Missing
Windber
Andrew Koharchik Jr. - Age 46
Marguerite Koharchik - Age 46
Summerhill
Marlin B. Mervine - Age 63
-----------------------------------------
LIST OF VICTIMS:
Dilltown
Julia Kameliski - Age 70
Dunlo
Chad Allen Gdula - Age 6
Kathleen Gdula - Age 23
James E. Smith - Age 61
Mineral Point
Harry M. Teeter - Age 74
Lula Teeter - Age 70
Richland
Robert Casciotti - Age 24
George Ribich - Age 50
Milka Ribich - Age 74
John J. Rokosz - Age 24
Howard Wilson - Age 24
George Zidzik - Age 50
Scalp Level
Helen Zidzik - Age 62
Susan Zidzik - Age 33
Seward
Greg Allen Dixon - Age 9
Myrtle Leslie - Age 77
Pauline Long - Age 53
Thelma Ressler - Age 52
Larry Edward Ressler - Age 36
The dams that surround Johnstown, stretching throughout the Conemaugh Valley, were unsuspecting accomplices in the Great Flood of 1977. They were duped by the instigator - the rain.
When they failed, six dams poured more than 128 million gallons of water into the Conemaugh Valley. In comparison approximately 4.8 billion gallons were unleashed on Johnstown when the South Fork Dam burst in 1889.

A phenomenal amount of rainfall - 11.82 inches in 10 hours - was too much for both the dams and the sewers in the Conemaugh Valley. The Corps of Engineers originally called the ’77 flood a 500 year flood, but it’s been downgraded slightly since then. The dams failed because of overtopping. The dams that burst were:

Laurel Run Dam on Laurel Run. The aged old earthen dam held 101 million gallons of water. It had a 42 foot high spillway. The dam was owned by the Johnstown Water Authority. When it failed the water enveloped Tanneryville and caused deaths and heavy property losses. The Laurel Run Dam was built by Cambria or Bethlehem Steel, then sold to the Water Authority when it was created.

Sandy Run Dam on Sandy Run. The dam held 18 million gallons of water. It was owned by the Highland Water and Sewer Authority. The 63 year old dam had a spillway of 28 feet

Salix Water Dam on Otto Run. It held 2 million gallons of water. Its spillway height was under 25 feet. It is owned by the Adams Township Water Authority.

Cambria Slope Mine 33 on Sanders Run. It held 7 million gallons of water. The dam leased by Bethlehem Mines Corp. had a spillway of 32 feet

Unnamed Dam on Peggy’s Run, Franklin Borough. This dam was leased by Bethlehem Mines Corp. and held an undetermined amount of water at the time of the flood because it was used as a catch basin.

An unnamed impoundment dam east of Johnstown at St. Michael held less than 1,000 gallons. It was a reserve dam for Bethlehem Mines Corp.

The dams were simply overwhelmed. After overtopping, water eroded the earthen embankments. There was total failure of five dams. The sixth, Cambria Slope Mine 33, retained about two-thirds of its contents.

The dams had not shown any defects in past inspections and no trouble was reported in them by the Pennsylvania Dept. Of Environmental Resources (DER). 
Without the work of the Army Corp. of Engineers and the Flood Control Project. A lot of you reading this post right now - would be dead.....
On The Doorstep - Thomas Hardy
The rain imprinted the step's wet shine
With target-circles that quivered and crossed
As I was leaving this porch of mine;
When from within there swelled and paused
A song's sweet note;
And back I turned, and thought,
"Here I'll abide."

The step shines wet beneath the rain,
Which prints its circles as heretofore;
I watch them from the porch again,
But no song-notes within the door
Now call to me
To shun the dripping lea
And forth I stride.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you did not live through the absence of resources like food and water or shovel away endless loads of flood mud, which I can still smell, or lose family, friends or neighbors then you at least understood the challenges of the survivors and respect the pain they carry without being a burden on others.

77' survivor from Kernville

Fred V said...

I'll never forget hearing the news from Johnstown -- unbelievable -- Johnstown, the flood free city ... I was spared of losing any family or personal friends in this tragedy, but the horror lives on with all of us who grew up in Johnstown feeling safe from disasters such as this.

Rest in peace my home town friends ...

JJ.in.Phila said...

The Keck family, of Hornerstown, was visiting the trailer park in Seward, when the wave hit. Vincent Keck was married to Thelma Ressler's daughter. Larry Edward "Eddie" Ressler was 16, not 36.

I will never forget that night.

R.Mellott said...

for jj.in phila. I wont forget that night either. Vince's mom called the trailer that night when the water was halfway up on the cars tires. She told everyone to come up to the house. She lived a short walking distance away.Her house was untouched.They answered that they were fine.When the water got deeper I was told everyone in the park was on the roofs of their trailers.Then the wall of water hit them.I lost eight of my family in an instant.My grandparents, my aunt,my cousin eddie,my cousin Kimberly her husband and their beautiful two children.I was just looking at all of their pictures this week. Still today this painful memory brings me to tears.

rkelley said...

I turned 12 on July 16 and I must say it I will never forget that long night on the roof in my boxers not knowing if we would die that night hearing the buildings fall at coopersdale homes still is a sound never to forget .........

Anonymous said...

I was a classmate of Julie Luther in Homewood, AL, a suburb of Birmingham. Her mom was very sweet. I still recall Julie talking about the trip they were taking that summer, as well as hearing from my mom what happened. At that age, it was hard to understand, and they were both missed.

Anonymous said...

The Luther family is one of the sweetest in the world. Their son Jim is a great man and his mother would be so proud.

Anonymous said...

No disrespect but you forgot to list Mark maverich under his sister Debra from tanneryville. Mark was 13

Bowie Auto Service said...

My whole family is from Johnstown I remember this tragedy very well. Thank god all my family survived this horrible flood. My father visited his parents after the water receded took pictures unbelievable!!

Bowie Auto Service said...

My whole family is from Johnstown I remember this tragedy very well. Thank god all my family survived this horrible flood. My father visited his parents after the water receded took pictures unbelievable!!

Lisa Boring said...

My uncle Melvin Boring was in that flood. Tanneryville I remember that day clearly. So sad.

Robert McClain said...

Hard to believe next July will be the fortieth anniversary of one of the most devastating floods in U.S. history. I'd forgotten the death toll had climbed to eighty. Despite efforts to rebuild, the mills finally closed and people moved away--but we never get far enough to not remember Johnstown, mostly pleasant memories.

This past week, I watched rains dump vast amounts of water on Baton Rouge. As terrible as the devastation was here, it can't compare to the '77 flood over Johnstown--even though the storm circled us just like it circled Johnstown almost forty years ago.

A. Graham said...

I remember Charles Stoner and his wife Louella along with his son Sheldon and his wife Sharen. They were customers of mine in the swimming pool business. Good hard working people. In the aftermath I could not believe that the “little creek” behind their home and business could sweep them all away and I did not know anyone to say how sorry I was about this tragedy. God Bless them.

mary arnold said...

Hello as I read all of the comments it brings me such sadness. I was born a little to late to remember this time. I was born on April 13 1979. I have been reading about the 1977 flood and it's bringing me such sadness in some other ways. I was told by my mother I was conceived during the cleaning up and rebuilding. Tho the dates are scaring me. The point is is I need help. I need anyone and everyone who knew of the names and crews whom came to help. Is there a james Leroy Kruse out there? That's the name I was given he is from Pittsburgh at least she days so. I do not have a relationship with my mother. She has told me many stories and I don't care about the circumstances of how I'm here I just need to know who I am. I'm getting married for the first time in August 2017. I would be ecstatic to ask my father to come and get to know me and my family. To all the lives lost God bless you and your families.

mary arnold said...

Hello as I read all of the comments it brings me such sadness. I was born a little to late to remember this time. I was born on April 13 1979. I have been reading about the 1977 flood and it's bringing me such sadness in some other ways. I was told by my mother I was conceived during the cleaning up and rebuilding. Tho the dates are scaring me. The point is is I need help. I need anyone and everyone who knew of the names and crews whom came to help. Is there a james Leroy Kruse out there? That's the name I was given he is from Pittsburgh at least she days so. I do not have a relationship with my mother. She has told me many stories and I don't care about the circumstances of how I'm here I just need to know who I am. I'm getting married for the first time in August 2017. I would be ecstatic to ask my father to come and get to know me and my family. To all the lives lost God bless you and your families.

Anonymous said...

I am 54 and was 13 during the flood. I went to school with Mark Maverich. The Gibsons were my cousins. The grew up in the west end and our house didn't even get water in the basement, however, my dad and I went into Tanneryville the morning after the flood looking for new on our cousins. We were told the water took their house out the night before. I can't begin to tell you how much damage the water caused nor the fear we had when we realized large drums were hitting the bridge we crossed getting in as far as we did. Over the next several weeks we volunteered to clean up mud messes, mainly the Catholic church of St Columba. Nothing can brace you of the smell and mud everywhere. Years later and I still have very vivid memories of the flood, they never go away.

Anonymous said...

I was only 4 years old at the time of the 77 Flood. My first hand accounts of the disaster are vague and hazy. My family lived on Langhorne Ave on the side of the hill in Southmont boro. We were relatively safe. Living on elevated land and away from bodies of water such as creeks and runs. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and seeing the intense lightning that lit up the night time landscape. The rain was relentless too. Later on that day, Langhorne Ave was a creek. I remember playing in the water and my mother yelling at me to get out. It was out of fear of being swept away, plus the water was dirty and polluted. I also heard neighbors advising others not to venture in the city because PA state police and the national guard had a very strong presence there to prevent looting and to assist in rescue and recovery. I'll be commenting more

Anonymous said...

My wife and I did go back to Johnstown this past Summer fior the 40th anniversary of the 1977 Flood. We first stopped in Windber at the Arcadia Theater. They had a special presentation of the 77 Flood from the Windber perspective. It was a collection of residents filming the aftermath of the destruction from the flood. They filmed it on 8mm cameras in an era before they had VHS camcorders. Nothing like the technology today. Windber area was one of the hardest hit in the 77 Flood. There were 5 people that lost their lives on that fateful night. The Koharchiks - Andrew and Marguerite (husband and wife) became trapped in the basement of the slavik club when the flood waters hit. In nearby Scalp Level, George Zidzik was coming to the rescue his mother and sister, Susan and Helen Zidzik. All three perished from the rapidly rising flood waters.


The Windbet presentation was excellent. Seeing film and photos of the 77 Flood that was never seen before. I even bought a copy of that presentation. George Kollar had a presentation of photos from Tanneryville on display at the Discovery Heritage Center. Tanneryville was the hardest hit area and accounted for almost half the death toll of the 77 Flood.

Anonymous said...

Tanneryville was decimated when the Laurel Run Dam collapsed on that fateful morning on July 20, 1977 at around 2:45am. According to eyewitness accounts the wall of water cascading down the narrow valley sounded like a roaring freight train. It acted like a giant bulldozer sweeping and flattening everything in it's path. Houses were ripped from their foundations and smashed. Cars, trucks, trees, boulders were tossed around like toys. 39 people lost their lives. Several families were wiped out or partially wiped out. The devastation to the West Taylor Township community was surreal and incomprehensible. The flood wave slammed into an already raging and swollen Conemaugh River. The flood wave split the river into. It had a back washing effect that inundated downtown Johnstown. It also sent a killer wave that destroyed the Hoover Trailer Park in Seward downstream killing almost a dozen people. The failure of the Laurel Run Dam was the coup de grace to the 1977 Johnstown. Today there are no physical remnants of the failured dam. The Laurel Run Park sits in its place. There is a private residence nearby that is presumably to have been built sometime after 1977.

Anonymous said...

There is a plaque at the West Taylor Volunteer Fire Company on Cooper Ave in Tanneryville to commemorate the 39 people who lost their lives on that fateful morning of July 20,1977. The plaque is attach to a boulder that was rolled downhill by the floodwaters when the Laurel Run Dam broke. My heart, thoughts and prayers goes out to the families who lost loved ones in that tragedy. The 1977 Johnstown Flood teaches us a sad and painful lesson. That tragedy can happen to anyone, anyplace at anytime. It reminds us how short and precious life is. We should always cherish life to the fullest and never take it for granted, because it can be taken away in a moments notice.

Unknown said...

Mind boggling that people would laugh, joke, and be nasty regarding this tragedy.

I suppose they found hilarious all the people who died in Katrina, as well the elderly people who died in that Florida nursing home due to Hurricane Irma. Perhaps the lives destroyed in the Caribbean last summer really rocked their socks.

Sorry statement on mankind. Makes one wonder if they will be our next school shooters.