Today in History, May 31: 1889 – The Johnstown Flood. The area east of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania had received record rainfall; it was already a miserable day. But it would get increasing worse. 14 miles above Johnstown was an earthen dam which had come into disrepair. With the heavy rainfall, the South Fork Dam collapsed and 3.8 BILLION gallons of water rushed down the valley. Amongst all of the debris gathered by the torrent were 33 train engines. The 30,000 people of Johnstown had no warning when the water and debris reached them. Over 2200 men, women and children perished as the town was virtually washed away. The combination of trains, trees, houses and steel from a factory slammed into a bridge and a temporary dam was created….which caught fire. Many who had survived the raging waters burned to death before the bridge finally broke.