South Carolina regulators are warning dam owners and operators to take appropriate steps to safely lower water levels before rain from Hurricane Florence reaches the state later this week.
“Owners of reservoirs with functional gates or flashboards should consider operating them to provide additional storage for the anticipated rainfall,” Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Dam Safety and Stormwater Permitting Division director Jill Stewart said in a statement Monday. “If there is a dam downstream of your dam and you are lowering your water level, please call the owner of that dam to advise him or her about what you are doing. Before and after the storm has passed, any accumulated trash and debris should be cleared from spillways.”
DHEC officials have issued such orders ahead of each major storm ever since Tropical Storm Joaquin’s record rainfall causes dozens of dams to overload and fail statewide in 2015.
Hurricane force winds can topple trees, causing large voids if the tree is uprooted on an earthen dam. The resulting soil loss can impact a dam’s structural integrity and can provide a path for water from the pond to exit in an uncontrolled manner. This condition may lead to failure.
DHEC also plans to utilize an emergency notification system as needed to automatically notify dam owners via voice call, text messages and email to take steps in preparation for the potential for impacts from Hurricane Florence.
“Staying alert for rising waters that may continue even after the rain has ended is important,” Stewart said. “Dam owners should be aware of the conditions at their dams during such events. If problems develop such that failure of the dam might be imminent, the owner or operator of the dam should contact local public safety officials, downstream property owners and DHEC Dam Safety Program staff at 803-898-1939.”