Parts of Virginia city evacuate over possible dam failure

August 3, 2018
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Power lines and a tree block Rainbow Forest Road during a thunderstorm, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018 in Lynchburg, Va. The National Weather Service said up to six inches of rain fell within hours, filling College Lake near Lynchburg beyond capacity. The service says a failure of the College Lake Dam could flood parts of Lynchburg with 17 feet of water in just seven minutes. (Taylor Irby /The News & Advance via AP)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — Officials in Virginia say a dam that overflowed Thursday is currently stable but are asking people who were evacuated to stay out of their homes until there’s dry weather.

Lynchburg city officials said at a news conference Friday that the engineers had found that College Lake Dam was not in danger of failing.

But officials said they would like to get through another possible storm and re-evaluate the dam Saturday before giving residents the all clear to return home.

“We’re still concerned about its overall stability going into tonight and tomorrow morning,” said Tim Mitchell, the city’s director of water resources. “But we are pretty confident at this point that the dam is stable and safe.”

The National Weather Service has a flash flood watch in effect through Friday evening. Weather forecasts for Lynchburg call for more rain through Saturday with sunny weather on Sunday.

Heavy rains Thursday filled College Lake beyond capacity, prompting officials to report that the lake’s dam was in danger of “imminent failure.” The service says a failure of the dam could flood parts of Lynchburg with 17 feet (5 meters) of water in just seven minutes.

Officials said emergency personnel evacuated about 150 homes in the city of 80,000. Local fire and police used boats to rescue people in some cases.

Several streets were closed as of Friday morning and city officials asked residents not to drive around barricades or through standing water.

Lynchburg Police Chief Raul Diaz warned potential looters that police were closely watching evacuated homes.

“We’re out there, we’re watching, so don’t anybody get any ideas,” he said.

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