Thursday, August 30, 2012
Officials are evacuating 19 homes and several businesses in Pike County Mississippi, as the dam at Lake Tangipahoa may fail.
Tropical Storm Isaac has damaged the dam at Percy Quin State Park just south of McComb, leading officials to evacuate the area below the lake.
The dam is not leaking, but there is a 50-50 chance the dam will fail, Pike County Deputy Director of Emergency Management Agency Carlene Statham told the JFP.
"(The dam) has been badly damaged," Statham said. "At this time, we are recommending that if you live below that dam, that you move to a safer place."
Statham said Pike County EMA director Richard Coghlan is on the scene assisting in the preparations.
Mississippi officials have not ordered an evacuation, but are urging residents south of the lake, along the Tangipahoa River, to get to safer ground.
Louisiana officials have ordered a mandatory evacuation of homes along the river, which crosses into Louisiana near the town of Kentwood.
Firefighters from Pike County pumped water out of the lake and over the spillway Thursday morning, but were unable to keep up with the rising water. Firefighters left the scene a little after 11 a.m., as the water began to flood the road to the spillway.
Officials from the Department of Environmental Quality, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, Pike County Sheriff's Department and the Army National Guard were also on site.
Robbie Wilbur, communications director for the state Department of Environmental Quality, said the department is monitoring the situation.
Lake Tangipahoa is a 700-acre lake that sits in Percy Quin State Park. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the park in the 1930s. The Tangipahoa River feeds the lake.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn told the Associated Press prisoners are sandbagging an area where part of the dam's base has slid away. He says there are no breaks, no water is coming through and he's been told officials at the scene don't think there's any immediate danger of breaking. The park is in an agricultural area. Flynn said any water pouring through would affect no more than 12 homes in Pike County.
Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Kavanaugh Brazeale says the corps is standing by to help if state officials ask, but so far has been told it's not needed.
Park manager Will Busby said in June that Lake Tangipahoa would be drawn down 6 to 10 feet for repairs on the dam and spillway valve--a project that would take all winter.
This afternoon, Louisiana officials said a controlled release of water had begun, reducing the threat at an endangered dam at a southwest Mississippi state park.
Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, says Louisiana received notice of the start shortly before 2:30 p.m.
The lake, swollen by rain from Tropical Storm Isaac, had been threatening to break the 2,300-foot-long earthen dam at Percy Quin State Park.
Mississippi's Department of Environmental Quality says it probably will dig out part of the bank of Lake Tangipahoa (TAN-juh-puh-HO-uh) to allow the release of water into the river. They say they won't breach the dam itself.
After flying over Tangipahoa Parish, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Parish President Gordon Burgess ordered immediate evacuation of Kentwood, a town of 2,200.
Associated Press contributed to this story.