Austin, PA Dam Collapse And Flood, Sept 1911 - Dam Breaks
DAM BREAKS, HUNDREDS LOSE LIVES
Another Johnstown Harrow in Pennsylvania
Austin Pa., Sept 30. -- Possibly 500 persons, most of them women and children are dead tonight; their bodies scattered through the valley by the 200,000,000 gallons of water that dashed faster than a mile a minute and foaming in a well fifty feet high swept down Freeman's run this afternoon from the broken dam of the Bayless Pulp mill and snuffed out this little city. The deluge was followed by fire.
Austin is a wreck. The living are hardly able to seek the dead. Nearly every survivor suffered a broken limb or strain or wound.
The flood swept through Austin, crushing nearly every one of its 500 houses. There was no warning. There came a roar, and then the shock of the flood the crash of the timbers, the screams of fear.
On the crest of the wave rode a thousand cords of pulp mill timber. This hit houses and stores like a succession of battering rains. It riddled the flimsy frame homes of the mill workers like charges of canister and left great gaps in their sides. It struck unto unconsciousness the terror stricken people seeking to swim the flood to safety.
The water passed the city in a solid wall two miles in length. The course from the creek was down the valley of the Sinnemahoning river, along whose banks there are hundreds of houses this evening covered by the swollen river or wrecked.
The town of Costello, three miles south, but much smaller, was also wrecked, but timely word from Austin saved the lives of most there.
The pulp mill, half a mile north of Austin, felt the force of the flood. It was torn from its foundations, with its great piles of logs, and doubled back upon the city. The Goodyear lumber yards had 7,000,000 feet of lumber in storage.
At the outskirts of the city this was added to the great log water battering dam which formed the apex of the flood.
The planning mill and the big hotel and store buildings fell before the hammering of the great logs. The Davis house and the Goodyear house are large brick structures, as are the First National bank building and the telephone exchange.
The main stores, Nelson brothers, Higgins brothers, Sykes Clothing store, Pallou Clothing store and Muschke's furniture store were destroyed. The school house is a wreck. The Commercial hotel, Goodyear house and Pelham house all went down.
The churches were left standing.
The escape of more than two score who survived the onslaught of the flood was cut off by a long wire fence which ran along the creek. When the flood had passed rescuing parties found the bodies caught in the wires and terribly torn.
Many bodies are being recovered along the banks of the river, some had been swept five miles below the city.
Rescuing parties are busy fighting the flames tonight, seeking to save the bodies buried there from incineration. Many were imprisoned in houses washed on to high ground by the flood, but soon licked up within the fire zone.
State Senator F. A. Baldwin narrowly escaped death. His father and mother were downed. Baldwin fought gallantly against the waters to save his aged parents, but without success.
Fire departments from Smithport, Coudersport, Bradfort and Keating Summit were rushed here to fight the flames. The wreck of the buildings left the gas mains open and the flames spread rapidly.
All of the buildings not completely destroyed by flood was swept by the fire, which blazed along the ruins, jumping from gas pipe to gas pipe.
The Austin hospital was soon filled with injured and bodies were piled up in rows on the lawn outside. Twice trains from Keating carried food and clothing, doctors nurses and medicines into the destroyed town and brought the injured on their return. The hospital is situated on a high hill and escaped the flood.
Among the first refugees to reach Keating's Summit was the chief druggist of Austin. He had seen his mother caught in the falling walls of their home beside the store, and killed. He barely escaped with his life.
When the water swept past the mountain of broken wood, of tumbled stone and brick and of warped wires at the intersection of Main and Turner streets, it was flooded twenty feet deep and of still increasing momentum.
The school house and Costello, like the hospital at Austin, stands on a hill, but it was destroyed, and that tells in a nutshell the damage to the town.
Not a quarter of Costello's buildings were so well situated.
The people of Costello heard the onrushing waters in time to escape.
The Iowa Recorder, Greene, IA, 4 Oct 1911, page 1
Typed as it appeared in the paper.