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  • Writer's pictureCarole Chantler

Historic and Catastrophic Floods

Floods have wreaked havoc and made their mark on history. Here are a few of them.

1 the Johnstown Flood. It equalled the flow of the Mississippi River in size. It began after 3 pm on May 31, 1889, when a dam broke on Pennsylvania’s Lake Conemaugh and washed away due to several days of drenching rain. The collapse unleashed 16 million tons of water, which quickly turned into a 40-foot-high surge of debris. The wave finally struck Johnstown about an hour later. It crushed 1,600 buildings. When everything was over, 2,200 people died and many others were injured or homeless.

2 the central China flood. This flood may have killed 3.7 million people. In the summer of 1931, heavy snowmelt, torrential rains and seven different cyclonic storms combined to produce the most devastating floods in China's history. In July alone, central China received as much precipitation as it normally sees in a year and a half. By August, the Yangtze, Yellow and Huai rivers had all burst their dikes and flooded an area larger than England.

3 great drowning of men flood. This was the result of a vicious North Sea tempest that swept across parts of Europe in January 1362. The effects of the storm were first felt in England where it blew from the north so violently that it flattened trees, mills, houses and a great many church towers. It was even worse in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. Here they experienced a catastrophic storm surge that overran nearly every dike in its path.

4 the Indus River Valley flood. It began on January 1841. It was caused when an earthquake triggered a massive landslide on the slopes of Nanga Parbat, a Himalayan peak located in what is now Pakistan. So much rock fell that it blocked the flow of the rushing Indus River and created a lake 500 feet deep and several miles long. When the natural dam finally burst in June, the lake emptied at a rate of 540,000 cubic meters per second, creating a massive flood wave almost 100 feet high. Whole villages were wiped off the map.

5. spring of 1927. After months of constant rain, the lower Mississippi River swelled to its breaking point and overran its levee system. The flood swamped 16 million acres across 7 states from Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans. Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana had the worst damage. Here it made a temporary shallow sea over 75 miles wide.


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