Fresh fears that the Padera Lake dam in Ellis County, Texas – an earthen structure damaged by record rainfall earlier this week – could give way if downpours continue are leaving locals on edge as the weekend nears.
Concerns about the dam’s integrity calmed earlier this week when a team of engineers from the county along with the builder and the Texas Commission on Environmental quality inspected the dam for damage saying the structure was holding just short of a breach.
Carla Wade with WFAA news reported early Wednesday morning that water was spilling over the top of the dam near U.S. Highway 287 and Kimble noting that Department of Agriculture and county emergency management officials said the dam was in “imminent danger” of a breach.
The seriousness surrounding the dam’s ability to hold were heightened when the National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning in advance of the anticipated wave of water coming through the dam at an estimated 15 to 20 feet.
In preparation for a catastrophic breach, authorities closed U.S. 287 and warned people living in in 25 homes in the Grand Prairie area that massive flooding with rushing water could occur. Police offered to evacuate the effected homes and move livestock to higher ground.
Another fear is that the earthen dam is not complete. It has been under construction for a year and that the temporary “cofferdam” in place now was only meant to keep the area dry while construction crews worked. Midlothian Police Chief Carl Smith said:
“I’m concerned about it, but I’m not an engineer.” “We are going to lean on their expertise (Ellis County Engineer and the builder) to say whether that dam is consistently secure. Our preliminary information is that it can handle the amount of water currently behind it.”
“Until we got to the morning light and got some of the engineers out here to verify the consistency of the cofferdam, we just took a conservative approach in terms of reacting to that…”
Pumps are being used to divert flood waters into two nearby streams to lower the lake’s water level in a controlled manner. According to Chief Smith, the pumps should keep homes out of immediate danger although the dam will be watched continuously while the threat of more rain remains in the forecast.