‘The Dam Broke! Run For Your Lives!’
The words echoed through the town of Austin, Pennsylvania, which was in the bull’s-eye of a terrible torrent cascading down the valley. The tall concrete dam that held back the waters of Freeman Run had surrendered to the power of gravity.
Waves of water carrying on their crest piles of battering-ram logs bore down on the village. Dozens fled to the steep hillsides surrounding the town. Some never heard the alarm; still others failed to heed the warning. Within minutes, at least 80 people would perish. Industries, businesses and homes would be leveled and a vibrant community would be nearly wiped from the face of the earth.
This is a tragedy that could have been prevented if warnings had been heeded, if corners had not been cut to reduce costs, if people in positions of power would have acted in the public interest.
Finally, a century later, a new book, 1911: The Austin Flood, tells the story from start to finish – why the dam broke, who’s to blame, and what lessons were learned.
There are tales of heroism and villainy, of blind faith and wishful thinking. There’s a review of engineers’ discoveries and a retrospective on the aftermath of one of the worst floods of the 20th century.
|Poignant first-hand accounts from more than a dozen people who witnessed the flood of 1911 and lived to tell about it. Among those sharing their memories of the flood is famous Judy Bolton book series author Margaret Sutton (shown)|