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The Great Flood of 1889 in D.C.

A massive storm system lumbered up the eastern United States from the Gulf of Mexico at the end of May 1889, dumping extraordinary amounts of rain everywhere it went. As it hammered the mountainous region of western Pennsylvania, the sheer quantity of water overwhelmed a poorly maintained dam, causing it to fail and send millions of gallons of water roaring down a narrow valley to destroy Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Over 2,000 lives were lost. While Washington fared far better than Johnstown, the flood of the Potomac river was still the worst the nation's capital had ever seen. A total of 4.4 inches of rain fell, and at the peak of the flood parts of Pennsylvania Avenue were covered with from 1 to 4 feet of water. A souvenir postcard of the flood, issued on its 20th anniversary in 1909 (author's collection).

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