80 NC counties and 1 VA county are under alert, including Wake, Cumberland, Durham, Johnston, and Orange counties. Details
Published: 2016-12-13 13:38:00
Updated: 2016-12-13 18:15:32
Posted December 13, 2016
Fayetteville, N.C. — State and local officials are frantically trying to lower the level of a Fayetteville lake to protect dozens of homes downstream in case the earthen dam that holds the lake fails.
The earthen dam off Gables Drive in the Country Club Hills neighborhood was damaged during Hurricane Matthew two months ago and continues to erode. Its spillway and an overflow drainage pipe are clogged with storm debris.
About 40 residents downstream were put on alert last Friday to be ready to evacuate in case the dam gave way and water from the 10-acre lake inundated the area.
The North Carolina Forestry Service brought in three pumps to remove about 2,200 gallons of water per minute from the lake. Water was flowing over the dam last week, but the pumping has lowered the lake level by 12 to 18 inches per day, officials said.
"Compared to where it was the weekend, where it was overtopping the dam, we've made pretty good progress on it," said Tim Mitchell, deputy director of Cumberland County Emergency Management. "We'll feel much more comfortable once we get the water level on down or the dam repaired."
Gene Booth, Cumberland County emergency management coordinator, said the privately owned dam had problems even before the hurricane.
"(The state Division of) Dam Safety had required the lake to be lowered because of ongoing problems, and once that debris is cleared, then it should work normally at a lower level until they can make repairs to the dam," Booth said.
If repairs aren't made on the dam, state officials could order that it be breached and the lake drained.