Parts of Virginia city evacuate over possible dam failure

Kipp Teague

On Thursday night (Friday NZ Time), the National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning for the area around College Lake Dam near Lynchburg, which has a population of more than 80,000.

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.

Authorities said concerns about the dam's failure will continue to be a threat until the water levels can safely be lowered.

A failure of the College Lake Dam near Lynchburg could flood the city with 17 feet (5 meters) of water in seven minutes, news outlets reported Thursday evening, citing statements from the National Weather Service.

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Heavy rains have caused flooding in Lynchburg, Virginia, prompting officials to order evacuations out of fears that a weakened dam could break and cover the city in several feet of water.

Local fire and police sent boats to rescue people to area shelters, including E.C.Glass High School and Sandusky Middle School. The dam has been under survey by the city for years as a safety hazard.

The Lynchburg Sheriff's Office says the E.C. Glass High School auditorium is available for any residents who are evacuating their homes.

"About 200yards down that hill is a dam, behind that dam is a reservoir, College Lake".

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But there was good news on Friday as engineers examined the dam and said it survived in good shape.

A flash-flood watch is in effect through 6 pm Friday in Lynchburg, with 1 to 3 more inches of rain expected.

The dam was built in the early '30s and, like many dams in the US, doesn't meet current safety standards. The area impacted would be the city of Lynchburg, which is one mile downstream from the dam. But the crew monitoring the dam last night raised concerns about structural integrity after just about six inches of rain.

And every proposed fix would cost millions of dollars.

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