Hundreds evacuated in Virginia after dam overflows

Hannah Rogers
August 4, 2018

The National Weather Service said that a failure of the College Lake Dam could flood parts of Lynchburg with as much 17 feet (5 meters) of water in just seven minutes.

Other photos showed water rushing Thursday night over the dam and Lakeside Drive, which separates College Lake and Blackwater Creek.

Authorities have evacuated parts of Lynchburg, Virginia, in preparation of what county officials report as the "imminent failure" of the College Lake Dam.

Lynchburg has been hammered by heavy rain over the past few days, which has raised water levels inside the dam.

Local outlet WDBJ7 said a number of people whose homes were deemed to be at risk had been evacuated to nearby schools, along with their pets.

Officials looked for signs of structural failure early Friday as water spilled over the dam. The Virginia Department of Transportation built it in 1934.

Lynchburg floods: Flooding dam sparks evacuations in US city

The weather service issued a flash flood watch in effect until 6pm Friday, as additional showers and thunderstorms with heavy rain are possible.

In 2014, engineers began surveying College Lake Dam as the result of a study determining the dam could not handle the flow of water expected during severe weather conditions, creating a safety hazard for residents who live below the dam. Liberty University, the Christian university founded by Jerry Falwell, is also located in Lynchburg.

"We are developing a plan to stabilize the dam which may include opening the sluice gate at the dam to reduce the water levels", the city said in a statement, adding those downstream should not see significant flooding if that occurs. One touched down last night in the New York City borough of Queens.

The dam was built in the 1930s by the Virginia Department of Highways and is now listed among "high hazard dams" in need of fix in Virginia.

City crews inspect the dam weekly because of its age. More recent projections have placed the fix costs at $10 million.

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