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

Lynchburg floods: Flooding dam sparks evacuations in US city

Lynchburg floods: Flooding dam sparks evacuations in US city

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for Blackwater Creek below the dam until 3.15pm local time (8.15pm BST).

A dam in Lynchburg could be on the verge of breaching putting the whole city at risk of drowning under 17 feet (5m) of water in as little as 7 minutes.

In a statement, it said: "County dispatch reported the imminent failure of College Lake Dam".

The deluge of rain that affected much of Virginia on Thursday, causing road closures and power outages in the Shenandoah Valley, has prompted evacuations in Lynchburg, just below an overflowing dam.

Were authorities previously aware of the danger?

The National Weather Service said up to six inches of rain fell within hours, filling College Lake beyond capacity.

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.

"We have about 130 people in one of our shelters, and about 25 in another shelter", she said, adding that engineers with the city's Water Resources Department were in the midst of conducting a dam inspection.

In 2014, officials launched an investigation to determine the safety of the dam after a city engineering study raised alarms that it posed a possible hazard to residents living downstream.

Recommendations from the investigation called for either rehabilitating the dam or having it completely decommissioned.

The dam was built in the 1930s by the Virginia Department of Highways and is now listed among "high hazard dams" in need of fix in Virginia. The term is unrelated to the actual structural integrity of the dam.

Firemen waded through flood waters on Thursday in Lynchburg. Parts of Pennsylvania have gotten about half a foot of rain since Thursday night - and it will keep falling into Saturday in many places.

Then, Gearing said, workers can stabilize the bridge in preparation for the next storm approaching.

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