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Evacuations lifted after dam failure fears ease in Lynchburg, Virginia

By Faith Eherts, AccuWeather meteorologist
By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer
August 04, 2018, 2:16:24 PM EDT

College Lake Dam, in Lynchburg, Virginia, was on the brink of failure on Friday due to recently heavy rainfall. The situation has stabilized for the time being, allowing residents to return home.

"Officials have reported that flooding over Lakeside Drive has ended and that water is holding within the shores of College Lake," according to a statement from the National Weather Service (NWS).

"While the situation continues to remain stable, emergency officials are continuing to monitor the dam as water is released [on Saturday]," the statement read.

Residents of threatened areas were asked to evacuate on Thursday evening. Evacuation orders were lifted at midday Saturday, the City of Lynchburg said in a statement.

lynchburg tree flooding

(Photo/City of Lynchburg)

"For the first time in probably 50 years or more, the emergency sluiceway at the bottom of College Lake dam has been opened and the lake is slowly starting to empty," according to the statement.

That will relieve pressure on the damaged dam and aid in repairs.

"Lakeside Drive will likely remain closed for about 6-8 weeks while that work is done," the the statement read.

Late Thursday into Friday, water was overflowing the top of the dam and officials said it on was the brink of failure due to recent heavy rainfall.

According to the NWS, water levels in Lynchburg could reach 17 feet in just seven minutes if the dam breaks, swiftly inundating homes and businesses.

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Lynchburg is located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, about 50 miles east of Roanoke.

"Lynchburg received 1.35 inches of rain on Thursday and 2.00 inches so far this month," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun said.

However, upstream rainfall can also contribute to rising water levels.

"Three to 6 inches of rain have fallen across the area since the afternoon of July 29, with the heaviest falling in the towns of Timberlake and Forest," Rathbun said.

Largely dry weather is expected into Monday, preventing significantly more water from seeping into the ground and creek system.

Widely-separated thunderstorms may dot more of the region Tuesday into Wednesday.

"The public is strongly advised to not walk on the lake bed due to unstable sediment," according to the city's statement. Residents are also asked to not climb on rock walls or enter the stream in the vicinity of the dam.

lynchburg flooding road

A partial road collapse occurred along College Drive in Lynchburg Thursday, Aug. 2. (Photo/City of Lynchburg)

city of lynchburg flooding

Emergency officials orchestrated boat rescues of families from an apartment complex on Greenwood Drive in Lynchburg, Virginia, Thursday, Aug. 2. (Photo/City of Lynchburg)

college lake dam

The College Lake Dam which runs under Lakeside Drive in Lynchburg, Va. is at risk of failing on Friday, August 3, 2018. Around 130 residents downstream of College Lake were evacuated the night before after a deluge on rain hit the area. (AP PHOTO/JILL NANCE)

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