Officials in Virginia fear dam will collapse as heavy rain forces evacuations

Water rescue in Lynchburg

The service says a failure of dam could flood parts of Lynchburg with 17 feet (5 metres) of water in just seven minutes.

County officials, who reported the College Lake Dam was near collapse late Thursday, continued to look for signs of structural failure Friday as water continued to spill over the structure.

The University of Lynchburg was not ordered to evacuate, officials said, because it is not downstream from the dam.

"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".

Were authorities previously aware of the danger?

The Virginia Department of Transportation built it in 1934. The city of Lynchburg owns the dam and is responsible for its upkeep.

"12 to eight inches of water is flowing over Lakeside Drive into Blackwater Creek". 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.

Flooding in Lynchburg
Water rescue in Lynchburg Flooding in Lynchburg

City crews inspect the dam weekly because of its age.

Downtown Lynchburg would not be affected, Gearing says. If you are in low lying areas below the College Lake Dam, you should move to higher ground immediately.

But "high hazard" refers to the level of risk such as loss of life or economic damage if a breach were to occur, according to the report. Parts of Pennsylvania have gotten about half a foot of rain since Thursday night - and it will keep falling into Saturday in many places.

Some of Lynchburg is already flooded.

"We are still concerned about its overall stability going into tonight and tomorrow morning", said Tim Mitchell, the director of Lynchburg Water Resources.

A press conference is scheduled to be held at 3 p.m. for an update.

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