Great Sheffield Flood
March 11, 1864 - England's largest man-made disaster happened on this day. The Great Sheffield Flood killed over 250 people.
The area of Sheffield had seen massive growth as the Industrial Revolution brought steel works and factories to the area. An audacious series of reservoirs were planned and constructed to supply water to the thirsty boom town.
The biggest of the projects was the Dale Dyke Dam which would hold 3 million gallons of water. But as the water filled the dam for the first time, a workman spotted an ominous crack along its embankment. An engineer was summoned and he immediately worked to lower the water level - but it was too little too late. The embankment crumbled under the massive weight. The sleeping towns in the valley below had no warning as a wall of water and debris swept over them.
The disaster left an 8-mile path of destruction that wiped out over 400 homes, 100 factories and 20 bridges.
There were many amazing stories of people who managed to survive the flood. One man named Henry Whittles was awakened by the water as it crashed into his house. He somehow collected all 5 of his children, including a 9-day-old infant, and he placed them on a bed with his wife. Miraculously as the walls of the home collapsed around them, their corner of the room stayed intact. The family watched in horror as other people were swept past them in the churning water. All the Whittles would survive, but hundreds of others weren't so lucky.
The Great Sheffield Flood still ranks as one of the deadliest floods of all time.