Torrential rains proved too much for a lake dam Saturday as emergency responders waited for a swollen Screven County lake to breach its confines.
As of 8 p.m. Saturday, Screven County Emergency Management Director Harvey Cryder said it could be “any time now” as he and other emergency responders monitored an 80-acre, 24-feet-deep irrigation lake owned by Herbert Jacobs.
The lake is located on Hwy. 17 near the Cooperville, Dover and Rocky Ford communities. Heavy rainfall every day for almost two weeks, followed by more rain as a new storm system moved through the area, caused the dam to erode.
Cryder said the dam had several leaks, but when the eroded portion gave away, it would send a tremendous amount of water through the spillway, over the highway, through streams to the already-flooded Ogeechee River.
Residents of the area, especially in low-lying spots, were advised to evacuate, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn. Bulloch’s public safety office assisted the Screven County EMA, Screven County Sheriff’s Department, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Georgia Department of Transportation in getting the word out as well as monitoring the situation.
Wynn said Bulloch County citizens living along the Ogeechee River should prepare for severe flooding upon the lake dam’s breach.
“We have no idea how much it will impact,” he said late Saturday “We will assess it in the morning.”
Volunteers in fluorescent green vests placed barricades on Hwy. 17 between Rocky Ford and Cooperville warning travelers. Heavy equipment operators hauled in loaders and excavators hoping to repair the breach, but it didn’t work.
Cryder said loads of dirt were dumped to try to clog the breach, and ditches were dug to divert the water, but the swirling waters fighting to escape at the spillway washed away dirt faster than it could be replaced.
Mud-colored water frothed through the spillway, rushing into a swiftly moving small river that washed through woods across Hwy.17. Volunteers, local residents and other curious onlookers awaited what the National Weather Service in Charleston said was an “imminent” breach of the dam.
Cryder said emergency responders would continue to monitor the lake in preparation for the aftermath once the dam gave way. Afterwards, his office will address any flooding and other emergency situation that arises, he said.
Wynn said Bulloch County experienced road closings Saturday afternoon as portions of the county experienced a deluge of rain. Bernard Smith Road near Mallard Pond Road was closed due to water over the roadway. Portions of Lakeview Road near Clito were also closed because some stretches of road were underwater, he said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.