Narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, Johnstown Flood tells the true story of one of the worst disasters in American history. On a stormy day in May of 1889, the South Fork Dam explodes. An entire lake is unleashed as a roaring 45-foot wall of water into the heavily populated valley below. The disaster claimed the lives of more than 2,200 people as the rushing tidal wave and debris tore through the town of Johnstown, crashed into the indestructible stone railroad bridge and flooded the valley. Fires erupted, countless buildings were destroyed and pandemonium and looting ensued. Out of a great tragedy came stories of heroism and a triumphant recovery spearheaded by Clara Barton and the American Red Cross. Johnstown Flood was written from first-hand accounts of those who survived the tragic event. Prior to the flood disaster, people bustle about this booming and prosperous industrial city of Johnstown. That Friday, freak cloudbursts swell streams and creeks, and the water at the dam begins to rise. Early warning signals and concerns over the safety of the dam are quickly dismissed. Preceding the flood, the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, which owns the dam, carelessly screens the safety spillway to prevent fish from washing over the dam. As the rain continues, the spillway quickly clogs with debris and allows the water to rise even faster. At 3:37p.m., the massive dam explodes, unleashing 20 million tons of water that crashes down the Conemaugh Valley, wiping out half a dozen towns and taking with it nearly everything on its way to Johnstown. The people of Johnstown never imagined that they could experience such horror and ruin. When the flood hits the busy town, it flattens almost everything in its path. The mass of water travels fiercely, crashing into a stone railroad bridge, which it cannot destroy. Everything the flood gathers smashes into the bridge, further damming up the water and creating a giant whirlpool. When a railroad car catches fire, it further adds to the destruction. This is the story of people who survived and people who died in one of the worst floods to ever hit North America. Through documented and illustrated firsthand accounts from survivors of the flood, the actual event is brought to life. Horrified survivors watch as the bustling industrial city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is instantly reduced into a wasteland. Townspeople and visitors alike are afflicted with untimely demises. Michael Mann, an unlucky miner, is far from his home, pursuing opportunities in Conemaugh Valley. Charles Dewald, a salesman from Altoona, suffers a dreadful fate as the last person to enter Johnstown's luxurious Holbert Hotel. Little children playing so innocently one moment, struggle to survive the rushing waters the next. Each of these people's stories immerses viewers in this tragic event, enabling audiences to relive their experiences. Among others, a New York World correspondent who is one of the first reporters to reach Johnstown after the disaster tells of the aftermath. As the waters recede, people from all over the world rally around the survivors to help victims regain all that is lost. This fast-paced documentary, Johnstown Flood, reveals both the bright and dark sides of humanity with a mixture of intense live action, personal stories and period photographs and engravings.