Parts of Virginia city evacuated over possible dam failure

Screengrab of video showing College Lake Dam overflowing with

Other photos showed water rushing Thursday night over the dam and Lakeside Drive, which separates College Lake and Blackwater Creek.

A failure of the College Lake Dam near Lynchburg could flood the city with 17 feet (5 meters) of water in seven minutes, news outlets reported Thursday evening, citing statements from the National Weather Service.

Officials in Lynchburg, in south-central Virginia, pronounced an endangered dam as "stable and safe" Friday afternoon, hours after they had warned the dam faced "imminent failure". They were still looking for signs of structural failure early Friday as water kept spilling over the dam, threatening about 124 houses in the city of 80,000.

Local outlet WDBJ7 said a number of people whose homes were deemed to be at risk had been evacuated to nearby schools, along with their pets.

The NWS issued a flash flood watch for the area that lasts until 11 a.m. Friday. The Virginia Department of Transportation built it in 1934.

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Carter explained that they were already dealing with floods from days of rain - more than six inches which has gotten worse - and they have had to conduct evacuations, some by boat. The city owns the dam, but the university owns the lake.

Turner Perrow, a member of the Lynchburg City Council who is also a civil engineer, tells NPR that the dam presents "a complicated problem". Since then, the city has continued to analyze the dam to determine how to move forward.

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.

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.

And every proposed fix would cost millions of dollars.

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