AN AMAZING FACT: One of the worst dam failures in U.S. history was the Johnstown flood of 1889 in Pennsylvania, which killed 2,209 people.
The dam, which was owned by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, was located 14 miles upstream from Johnstown. This exclusive club counted Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick among its members. It was a pleasure resort on Lake Conemaugh. The reservoir created by the dam was completed in 1852, and little maintenance was ever performed on it. In fact, when it broke through once in 1862, someone removed drainage pipes and sold them for scrap.
By 1889, the dam was in desperate need of repairs. Then it began to rain. It was late May and several days of extremely heavy rainfall, the worst in recorded history for this area, began to fill the soggy dam to overflowing. Twenty billion tons of water were pressing to be released.
Engineers were unsure how to manage the dam. Twice someone was dispatched to telegraph the towns downstream, but previous false alarms caused authorities to ignore the messages. Finally, at 3:10 pm, the South Fork Dam collapsed. It only took 40 minutes for the entire lake to drain. The first town hit was South Fork. It was situated on higher ground and four people were killed.
But as the wall of water rushed forward, it picked up debris, houses, animals, trees, and factory materials. By the time it hit Johnstown, there was so much rubbish that it looked more like a boiling mass of earth than water. The disaster was the largest loss of civilian life in America at the time—and it all started with a trickle.
It doesn’t take much of an imagination to picture the parallel in our Bible passage between strife and a flood of water. Solomon warns that a little quarrel might seem innocent, like a small amount of water spilling over a dam. But what is happening underneath could work up a devastating burst. Have you ever noticed how a trivial squabble can grow into a major conflict? At the time it seemed it would just blow over. But in retrospect, a bit of resolution would have saved the relationship.
Take time to repair friendships. Give attention to discord and maintain harmony as much as possible. If you do, it will stop a torrent of anger that will destroy everything in its pathway. Dear Jesus, thank you for stepping into the conflict of our world and bringing peace. Your mediation will someday put an end to all contention.
Additional reading: Proverbs 17:1–14
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with. Proverbs 17:14