A Dam in Mississippi Threatens to Fail as Rivers and Flooding Threats Rise in the South and Midwest

CNN Newsource
By CNN Newsource
January 15, 2020US News
A Dam in Mississippi Threatens to Fail as Rivers and Flooding Threats Rise in the South and Midwest
County officials work on the Oktibbeha County Lake Dam on Jan. 14, 2020, near Starkville, Miss., after County Engineer Clyde Pritchard warned the dam's failure was imminent. (Brad Robertson/The Starkville Daily News via AP)

Engineers are closely watching a dam in eastern Mississippi Wednesday over concerns that it could fail, as recent rains are posing flooding threats around the South and Midwest.

The Oktibbeha County Lake Dam, just northwest of Starkville, appeared in danger of failing Tuesday morning, officials said.

Luckily, it had stopped raining in the evening and no further signs of failure were seen, county emergency management director Kristen Campanella told CNN affiliate WCBI. But more rain is expected Wednesday afternoon, and officials will continue inspecting the dam, WCBI reported.

“The dam has not failed yet, but a chance for failure still exists,” the National Weather Service office in Jackson said Wednesday morning.

If the dam breaks, about 250 people would have to evacuate and more than 17,000 acres could be flooded, Campanella told The Dispatch newspaper of Starkville in September.

Campanella said that every time it rains, officials monitor the dam, which needs repairs that the county has not been able to secure funds for over the past several years.

Oktibbeha County District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard told The Dispatch a project to fix the dam could cost up to $8 million.

Flooding Along the Mississippi and Pearl Rivers

Extensive rainfall has caused flooding around rivers in the South and Midwest, prompting flood warnings for more than 2 million people in states including Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.

In Mississippi, up to 1 inch of more rain is possible from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday morning, raising the possibility of flash flooding especially north of Interstate 20, the National Weather Service in Jackson said.

In Jackson, the swollen Pearl River overflowed into some city streets Tuesday.

Ankle-deep water flowed into a QuikStop convenience store off Jackson Street, video from CNN affiliate WAPT showed.

“Once the dam gets full, it floods the whole store, I mean, literally. All in the back, the sewage comes up,” city resident Kee-Kee Harris told WAPT.

Further west, the Mississippi River will likely flood over the next few days.

Significant flooding is happening or could happen along the river over the next five days in southern Missouri and Illinois, western Tennessee and northeastern Arkansas, western Louisiana and southern Mississippi, the National Weather Service said.

Flood warnings were in effect along the river Wednesday from Festus, Missouri, to Donaldsonville, Louisiana, a stretch of about 700 miles.

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