State emergency officials say a total of ten dams have breached across South Carolina, mostly small manmade lakes in the Midlands.
Officials are doing what they can to relieve pressure on strained dams across the Columbia suburbs in Forest Acres and northeast Columbia. Evacuations were ordered for residents along Forest Lake on Monday amid fears that rain runoff is overwhelming upstream dams and the Gills Creek watershed. Meanwhile residents along Gills Creek south of Forest Lake are being urged to move away from the creek in case Forest Lake’s dam should fail.
There were incorrect reports about a dam failure on Upper Windsor Lake, located close to the intersection of Interstate 20 and Interstate 77 in northeast Columbia.
The rumors started after the Richland County Sheriff’s Office sent an email to news outlets warning that the dam at Upper Windsor had breached and residents downstream were being told to evacuate. However, Sheriff Leon Lott said that information was incorrect and should not have been released to media.
Crews are also working to protect a pond that had begun to breach the Beaver Dam Road dam on Monday. The crew dug their own channel through another section of dam to relieve pressure, with the state Emergency Management Division warning the dam’s failure would be “imminent” otherwise. The water has now lowered so that it is no longer pouring into the breach that formed a day earlier.
Seven miles downstream, residents are still being told to stay away from a Forest Lake that is at completely full capacity as receding floodwaters travel from the upper ponds. Those who live in the Gills Creek floodplains south of Forest Lake and along Lake Katharine are being told to stay away from the water in case the dam should breach. Many of those areas flooded during the initial damage on Sunday.
The SC Emergency Management Division has posted a floodplain map on its website of areas that would be affected should the Forest Lake dam fail. However, the agency notes this is a prediction and should not be used as a guide for potential life-or-death situations.
While the Columbia dams are considered a potentially more dangerous situation, three of the failed dams were in Lexington County. That included Gibsons Pond and Lexington Mill Pond, two manmade lakes on the Twelvemile Creek watershed. The surge from the dam failure at Mill Pond heavily damaged several structures, including the Old Mill shopping center.