Johnstown is a small city located just west of the main ridge of the Alleghenies. To most outsiders it is associated with four historic and devastating, floods, the most recent in 1977. Today the city has a mixed and somewhat depressed economy and a slow pace of life, but at one time it was a major steel producing center. The tight valley-floor geography and relative distance to resources compared to other steel towns led to a long decline that climaxed with the 1977 flood. There are still some steel fabrication industries, but heavy industry and manufacturing are largely a thing of the past, and the city struggles to reinvent itself today as a service and minor high-tech player.
Local amenities focus on museums that commemorate the floods and a historic incline railway, and arts amenities are on the upswing. There is good outdoor recreation in the area. The low cost of living, very affordable housing, and small-town environment are the main attractions. There isn’t much employment security, much to do or much intellectual stimulation; but all are on a slow rise and the area is clearly a wait-and-see.
The immediate area around downtown is located on a flat floodplain of the Conemaugh River. Several creeks converge on the plain, with a long, deep gorge to the west and an arrangement of mountains catching moisture flow from the south, creating ideal flood conditions. Steep wooded bluffs and hills surround the town. The climate is humid continental, typical of central Pennsylvania, modified by the mountains and the Great Lakes to the north. Summers are warm and humid, influenced by Gulf air from the south. Winters are cloudy and cool with mixed precipitation but infrequent severe cold.