Damaged dam leads to evacuation along Tangipahoa River
PIKE COUNTY, MS (WAFB) - Tangipahoa Parish called for a mandatory evacuation of all areas along the Tangipahoa River, including the town of Kentwood, after officials were notified a dam in southern Mississippi is damaged but has not failed.
Officials said Mississippi Emergency Management notified GOHSEP and Tangipahoa Parish Government about the concern at Lake Tangipahoa at Percy Quinn State Park.
Pike County Civil Defense said the dam is still holding but there is concern it could give way. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess went on a helicopter flyover and called for an immediate evacuation of the town of Kentwood at 1:45 p.m. Thursday.
Out of caution, Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess issued the mandatory evacuation order for all residents along the Tangipahoa River. About 60,000 people from Percy Quin to Kentwood are being asked leave.
The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality said the dam will not be breached. Instead, workers will dig out part of the bank to relieve water pressure.
The release is not expected to significantly increase water levels downstream, although evacuations were ordered at 10:10 a.m. CT for residents along the river in Mississippi and Louisiana.
At the time, the dam appeared heavily damaged, but it was unclear whether the onslaught of rain brought by Isaac would be too much for it. According to WWL, McComb, MS, Mayor Whitney Rawlings said there was a 50/50 chance the dam would fail on its own.
Residents had 90 minutes to evacuate.
WAFB reported the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for parts of Pike County in southern Mississippi. A National Guard helicopter had been maintaining position over the dam, according to CNN.
Evacuations have been ongoing, and Jindal agreed to send buses to help move people out of the areas of potential hazard.
If residents in Osyka were flooded by the 1997 or 2002 floods, they need to evacuate immediately. If residents in Kentwood were flooded by the 1990 or 1983 floods, they need to evacuate immediately.
Shelter locations are as follows:
- Hammond West Side Elementary Montessori School
- Hammond Jr. High Magnet School
- Natalbany Elementary School
- Nesom Middle School
- Amite High School
- Kentwood High Magnet School
Residents should call 211 for the latest sheltering and evacuation information.
According to WLBT in Jackson, MS, Pike County Emergency Manager Richard Coghlan said there is no seepage, the spillways are working, levees have not been overtopped and crews are lowering the level of Lake Tangipahoa.
He said two portions of the backside of the dam received significant damage from the rains, but that no water is leaking.
If the dam does fail, the crest forecast would rise to 21.5 feet. That would break the record crest of 18.7 feet.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for southwestern Pike County in southern Mississippi after the emergency management officials determined the dam would probably fail.
Forecasters expect severe flooding downstream along the Tangipahoa River from west of the McComb Airport and Magnolia to Osyka.
The water level is expected to rise nearly eight feet below the dam to six feet at Osyka. The river stage at Osyka is currently 14.8 feet.
The weather service said this is a flash flood emergency for all low-lying areas along the Tangipahoa River, including Osyka.
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