Residents allowed to return home after fears of dam failure in Virginia

Residents are being allowed to return to their homes following evacuations over fears of a possible dam collapse in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The evacuation order was lifted Saturday after water levels were lowered, Lynchburg city officials said in a statement.

Heavy rains sent water spilling over a dam in the area, leading to fears that it could collapse. But officials said the 84-year-old structure was “currently stable and … there is no immediate fear of dam failure.”

The situation was much more dire Thursday, when flooding prompted some evacuations in the city of roughly 80,000 people.

That night, the National Weather Service reported the College Lake Dam could fail, and if it does, “the water depth at Lynchburg could exceed 17 feet in 7 minutes.”

The earthen dam was intact Friday, the weather service said in an update, but water has been moving over it and into Blackwater Creek 2 miles southwest of downtown Lynchburg.

City officials said they found no seepage and that engineers would continue to monitor conditions around the clock. Crews opened a small sluice on the spillway Saturday to begin dewatering the reservoir.

Rain has saturated parts of the East for days, with flash-flood watches in effect for millions from Georgia to Vermont.

Some of Lynchburg was flooded. 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.

If the dam had collapsed, floodwaters would have moved from the creek into the James River near Lynchburg’s business district.

The city’s Department of Emergency Services urged people living on a number of roads near the dam to evacuate Thursday night.

The city near the Blue Ridge Mountains has received plenty of runoff from recent rains, and 4 to 6 inches of rain fell in the area Thursday evening, filling College Lake beyond its capacity.