National Dam Safety Awareness Day
May 31 is National Dam Safety Awareness Day
National Dam Safety Awareness Day was established several years ago to commemorate the devastation that occurred on May 31, 1889, when the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, PA, failed. This tragic event resulted in the deaths of 2,200 people and left thousands homeless. The Johnstown disaster was the worst dam failure before in the history of the United States.
The Johnstown Flood Museum is holding a commemoration ceremony, occurring over several days with participation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) National Dam Safety Program and the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO). The current agenda and location information is on the museum’s website.
FEMA encourages all states and territories to have an event at either the local level or state-wide to educate the public about Dam Safety.
Dam Failure Information
There are more than 80,000 dams in the United States according to the 2007 update to the National Inventory of Dams. Approximately one-third of these pose a “high” or “significant” hazard to life and property if failure occurs.
Intense storms may produce a flood in a few hours or even minutes for upstream locations. Flash floods occur within 6 hours of the beginning of heavy rainfall, and dam failure may occur within hours of the first signs of breaching. Other failures and breaches can take days and weeks to occur because of debris jams or the accumulation of melting snow.
For preparedness tips on what to do before, during, and after a flood, visit Ready.gov.