Evacuations in rain-stricken Virginia amid concern dam might collapse

Evacuations in rain-stricken Virginia amid concern dam might collapse

The National Weather Service reported if the dam does fail, "the water depth at Lynchburg could exceed 17 feet in 7 minutes".

Heavy rains have prompted authorities to evacuate parts of a central Virginia city in case a dam fails and floods the area.

The weather service said Friday that water levels have decreased but the "the threat of for dam failure continues".

The University of Lynchburg, which sits next to College Lake, is open Friday.

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

Photos from Thursday showed muddy water deluging the dam and the road that separates College Lake from Blackwater Creek, while rescuers were shown using rafts to ferry people from their apartments to safety.

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.

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Lynchburg has a population of about 80,000.

College Lake is a manmade lake, built in the early 1930s by the Virginia Department of Highways as part of the development of U.S. Highway 460, west of Lynchburg. Since then, the city has continued to analyze the dam to determine how to move forward.

The weather service has extended a flash flood warning for the region through Friday evening because of the possibility of additional showers and thunderstorms.

"The good news is that the rain has stopped and began to recede yesterday, relieving some of the pressure on the dam", Major Tommy Carter of the Lynchburg Sheriff's office told Fox News on Friday, "but the bad news is that there's more rain in the forecast today and the dam has been weakened". It is located in a critical position, according to the university, for capturing surface waters from multiple sources of the Blackwater Creek watershed just before emptying into the James River.

The dam was built in the early '30s and, like many dams in the USA, doesn't meet current safety standards. The area impacted would be the city of Lynchburg, which is one mile downstream from the dam.

"At this time, the dam has not failed and is being closely monitored by emergency personnel for any signs of structural failure", the weather service said in a statement.

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