Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Breach of the High-Hazard Woodlake Dam imminent; mandatory evacuation in Moore County, North Carolina ordered

Updated 6:11 a.m. today

  Moore County, N.C. — A mandatory evacuation was underway Monday night as officials in Moore County announced an imminent breach of the Woodlake Dam.

State dam inspectors and Moore County officials said the breach could cause as much as two to three feet of additional flooding for communities downstream from the dam.

The town of Spring Lake announce an immediate evacuation just before 11 p.m. for all residents and business along the Lower Little River downstream from Woodlake Dam.

Evacuated areas include the Bragg Estates community on Vass Road, residents on West Manchester Road from the old Fort Bragg Water Treatment Plant to N.C. Highway 87 and the Riverside Mobile Home Park.

In Moore County, residents south of N.C. Highway 690 from Morrison Bridge Road to Riverbend Drive were advised to evacuate.

People in those areas were asked to leave as soon as possible and Spring Lake Fire and Police Departments began going door to door to inform residents and business owners of the evacuation.

A Spring Lake evacuation shelter was open at the Town of Spring Lake Recreation Center at 245 Ruth Street.

Woodlake Dam holds back about 10,000 acre-feet of water when its reservoir is at its peak.

Last year, Woodlake Dam was one of the largest high-hazard dams in the state to receive a poor rating from regulators. High hazard dams are those where loss of life is likely if the structure fails.

Last summer, state inspectors found cracks and "a void of unknown size" in the dam's concrete spillway as well as seepage along the dam's earthen slope. The dam's owner had to begin fixing the dam by Oct. 27 of last year, but a timetable for making repairs was never communicated to nearby homeowners.


RALEIGH (WTVD) -- State Dam Inspectors and Moore County Officials have announced a leak in the dam at Woodlake in eastern Moore County causing as much as two to three feet of additional flooding to downstream communities in Moore, Hoke and Harnett counties. A flash flood warning has been issued for the surrounding area.

Moore County Public Safety Monday night ordered another mandatory evacuation of homeowners south of the Woodlake Dam.

According to Public Safety, a breach of the dam is "highly likely."

At least one resident in the Woodlake Country Club development said Monday evening that he had heard from state officlals that the back of the spillway is eroding and that could result in a dam breach. The dam could fail if the ongoing spillway erosion continues.

"Due to Hurricane Matthew and the significant amounts of rain that have been received flooding in the Lobelia area, Woodlake Dam is nearing breach levels. Please take immediate action to evacuate down stream of the Woodlake Dam. Evacuate if you are south of Woodlake Dam."

Officials were quick to caution the dam had not breached as of Monday night around 9 p.m. Joe Mancos, assistant chief of Emergency Medical Services for Moore County Public Safety, said a small portion of the dam had washed away but that engineers were working to "mitigate" the issue. Still, a breach remained a high likelihood.

Officials on Sunday morning urged residents downstream of Woodlake Dam to leave the area.

Crain's Creek Fire Department officials spent Sunday morning helping residents downstream of the dam, along McGill Road and the floodprone Riverview and Riverbend communities.

Woodlake water levels had been thought to be decreasing during the day on Monday, but continued drainage into the lake has caused new concerns the weakened dam could give way.

The Woodlake Dam has been troubled for years. State dam regulators have ordered its owners repair the dam, but those repairs have been delayed and dragged out for years.

The lake’s dam has been a problem for decades. In the late 1980s, the lake needed to be drained because of large holes that needed to be fixed to prevent its collapse.

The latest dam safety order lists several “deficiencies that threaten the structure’s integrity, including cracks in the principal spillway of the dam, a void of unknown size at the bottom of that spillway, voids along the sides of the dam’s wing wall and seepage at various locations on the downstream slope of the dam.”

The dam is classified as a high hazard because its failure poses a major threat to human life, local roads and property downstream.

The water level had been lowered in recent months, much to the anger of waterfront residents in the Woodlake community. However, the rains from Hurricane Matthew pushed water levels up to dangerously high levels Saturday and Sunday.