After hours of heavy rains, emergency officials raced to evacuate around 3,000 people from a dam near Johnstown Wednesday.
Art Martynuska, Cambria County's emergency management director and head of the 911 center, stated that the Wilmore dam water level reached the point where evacuation was necessary. Martynuska stated that the Hinckston Run Dam was being monitored as well and could need evacuation.
Martynuska stated that Wilmore dam has "attained the stage where we have to order an evacuation in the flood areas downstream of the dam."
Wilmore Dam, which is owned by the Cambria Somerset Authority, was built in 1908. It was assessed in September 2020 with the condition details "deficiency acknowledged". Hinckson Run dam was also rated poor in 2020.
The dams are located a few miles away from Johnstown and were both considered high-hazard dams. They could kill someone if they fail.
He said that the Red Cross, National Guard and local transit authority were assisting in transporting evacuatees to nearby high schools.
Martynuska stated that there have been minor evacuations in Cambria County.
Despite an emergency alert system notice about a failure of the Wilmore dam, it has not failed, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Ruth Miller said in a mid-afternoon email.
"The dam is working as it should. Water is flowing into the emergency leakway which prevents further structural degradation. Miller stated that the emergency plan for Wilmore Dam requires downstream evacuations if water enters the spillway.
2,200 people were killed in the 1889 Johnstown flood. This was the worst of a series of disastrous floods that hit the region. Poor maintenance at the South Fork Dam, Little Conemaugh River was responsible for the disaster. The water surged at 40 mph, sending a 36-foot wall rushing into the area.