Officials in Virginia fear dam will collapse as heavy rain forces evacuations

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With help from first responders, 150 people were evacuated.

Last night, the National Weather Service warned that the worst-case scenario - a complete dam collapse - could send 17 feet of water into the central Virginia city in just seven minutes.

The weather service said that College Lake was at "near capacity" after up to 15 centimetres of rain fell on Thursday evening (Friday NZT).

She said the plan next was to open a 3-foot by 3-foot sluice in order to lower reservoir levels to make it more safe.

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

Some of Lynchburg is already 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.

"Currently, they have found no seepage at the dam so it is considered stable", Jes Gearing, public information officer for Lynchburg Water Resources, said in a statement emailed to NPR.

"I think I know some people who are going to be moving tonight", Organ says in the video.

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Some 124 households have been urged to evacuate, Lynchburg's Department of Emergency Services said.

Lynchburg, with a population of around 80,000, is home to a number of colleges and universities, including the University of Lynchburg (previously Lynchburg College), which owns the lake the dam is located on. There is also the prospect of stronger storms developing in the afternoon, which could lead to isolated wind damage.

"The worst case scenario if that dam does breach, officials are anxious it might, is that water would go surging downhill into Lynchburg and it could drown that city in 17 feet of water in about 7 minutes".

According to the City of Lynchburg, Lakeside Drive from Old Forest Road to Moorman Drive, will be closed until further notice.

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