Evacuations begin in Lynchburg, Virginia, over fears of dam break

Geneva Stokes
August 4, 2018

People are evacuating from Blackwater Creek Trail in Lynchburg because the College Lake Dam may fail.

It was feared that if the dam did fail and collapse, water would flood from the creek into the James River, which is close to the city's business district.

To assist with this project, Lynchburg College gave a piece of its land to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the construction of an earthen dam which impounded Blackwater Creek and created College Lake on the property of then Lynchburg College.

This area is right near the University of Lynchburg.

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

Late last night, county officials reported that the dam was in danger of "imminent failure," as local first responders shuttled boats into floodwaters to rescue citizens and take them to shelters.

Lynchburg, in the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia, is home to about 80,000 people. The city of Lynchburg owns the dam and is responsible for its upkeep.

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The National Weather Service, warning of the "dangerous situation", said early Friday that "runoff from Thursday's heavy rainfall will continue to cause flooding across the area".

A deluge of rain in Virginia has prompted hundreds of people living below an overflowing dam to be evacuated from their homes.

The dam at College Lake, adjacent to the University of Lynchburg, was built in 1934, according to the school's website.

The lake's ecosystem is degrading rapidly, the school reports, as it fills with sediment, nutrients and raw sewage, resulting in the rapid development of watershed and stormwater management problems. The road, now US 221, needed expansion and improvement.

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.

"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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