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March 12, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Dam Saves $2 Billion

January and February brought a lot of snow to the Mid-Atlantic states. In fact, record-breaking snows in the “all time” category fell near and far across the region. Not too far from the Mid-Atlantic, off to the northwest a bit, is the shoulder area between the Great Lakes and the Mid-Atlantic: Pennsylvania and, more specifically, western Pennsylvania.

Western Pennsylvania was on the receiving end of many of the Mid-Atlantic snows in 2010, more or less, depending on the storm. But western Pennsylvania was also on the receiving end of many of the infamous lake-effect snows from the Great Lakes. Again, “more or less” depending on the storm. However, certain regions of western PA certainly had residents wondering, “Snow? Again? C’mon, March!” Well, March is here and all that snow is melting. Making a bad situation worse, rain has been in the forecast for this region for the past few days and is expected to continue. Flooding from rain and snowmelt now falls to the flood control programs in place across western PA.

Run-off directed into controlled waterways near Johnstown, PA. Photo:

In 1952 the Conemaugh River Lake Dam was completed. Designed to prevent flooding to the lower Conemaugh Valley, the Kiskiminetas Valley, the Lower Allegheny Valley and the upper Ohio River Valley, the lake/dam is one of 16 flood control projects in the Pittsburgh district. When rainfall, melting snow or accelerated stream flows indicate the possibility of flooding, the dam retains the additional water until it can be released without flooding regions downstream of the dam.

The Conemaugh River and the Conemaugh River Lake Dam. Photo: Wiki.

Authorized by the Flood Control Acts of 1936 and 1938, the Conemaugh River Lake Dam is one of many Flood Control and U.S. Army Corps. of Engineer projects across the United States. Since its completion, it is estimated that Conemaugh has saved more than $2 billion in flood damage. It’s estimated that $375 million in flood damage was prevented when the remains of Hurricane Ivan visited the area in 2004 with between five and nine inches of rain — most of which fell during long periods of heavy rain.

A low pressure area moving through the Midwest brings extensive rain to the eastern third of the U.S. today, including western Pennsylvania where 3+ inches are expected in the coming few days. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch.

121 years ago Johnstown, Pennsylvania was in the news in a big way. The Johnstown Flood. Photo: Wiki


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