Engineers work to keep Lynchburg dam stabilized

Posted at 2:02 PM, Aug 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-03 18:20:40-04

LYNCHBURG, Va. -- According to Lynchburg Water Resources, College Lake Dam is considered stable after a conditions assessment was performed Friday afternoon, reported WDBJ.

Engineers performed the assessment on the dam and WDBJ reported that no seepage was found in the area. Officials are working to create a plan to keep the dam stabilized which may include opening the sluice gate to reduce the water levels.

Crews are making it their top priority to keep the dam stabilized, reported WDBJ.

Additionally, Community Development officials will be assessing buildings to ensure they are safe for the return of people.

A press conference is scheduled at 3 p.m. Friday.

Heavy rains sent water spilling over a dam in Lynchburg, Virginia, spurring fears that it could collapse and prompting some home evacuations in the city of roughly 80,000 people.

In a dire warning Thursday night, the National Weather Service reported the College Lake Dam could fail, and if it does, "the water depth at Lynchburg could exceed 17 feet in 7 minutes."

The dam was intact Friday morning, the weather service said in an update, but water has been moving over it and into Blackwater Creek about two miles southwest of downtown Lynchburg.

The warning comes as rain has saturated parts of the East for days, with flash-flood watches in effect Friday morning for millions from Georgia to Vermont.

Some of Lynchburg is already flooded.

City officials posted pictures Thursday of rescuers using a raft to take families from a flood-threatened apartment complex as well as the partial collapse of one road into an adjacent creek.

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

Earlier Thursday, Joni Organ posted video on social media of water thundering powerfully down a swollen Lynchburg creek.

"I think I know some people who are going to be moving tonight," Organ says in the video.

Should the dam collapse, floodwaters would move from the creek into the James River near Lynchburg's business district.

The city's Department of Emergency Services urged people living on a number of roads near the dam to evacuate Thursday night. The department's Piper Van dePerre told CNN affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke that crews are working with a list of 124 residences that need to be evacuated.

The west-central Virginia city near the Blue Ridge Mountains has received plenty of runoff from recent rains, and 4 to 6 inches of rain fell in the area Thursday evening, filling College Lake beyond its capacity.

A flash-flood watch was in effect through late Friday morning in Lynchburg, with 1 to 3 more inches of rain expected.

The University of Lynchburg, which is near the lake, said it has not ordered an evacuation because it is not downstream of the dam, according to affiliate WSLS in Roanoke. The school said it is open Friday, though its entrance on Lakeside Drive was closed.

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