The city of Lynchburg, Va., could become flooded with 17 feet of water in a matter of minutes, as heavy rains Thursday evening threatened to cause a dam in the area to fail, according to local news reports citing statements from the National Weather service.
Authorities have evacuated parts of the city in preparation of what county officials reported as the “imminent failure” of the College Lake Dam at around 9:30 p.m., according to the weather service.
Officials have opened a local high school as a temporary shelter and the Red Cross of Virginia is working to stock the shelter with supplies, FOX station WFXR-TV in Roanoke reported.
Lynchburg has a population of about 80,000.
Up to six inches of rain fell Thursday and caused the College Lake dam to fill beyond its capacity, with water already overflowing onto a road and into a nearby creek, the Lynchburg Water Resources Department said.
“It’s pretty much sickening. I can’t believe that. It’s the worst I’ve seen in all the eight years I’ve lived here,” Jeff Saunders, who came home to his top floor apartment to find water reaching his front door, told the News & Advance of Lynchburg. “I’m just relieved [people who were rescued] are OK.”
It was unclear how many people were being evacuated, but emergency response officials have started sending out boats and squads to rescue people as roads several roads were already flooded.
According to the News & Advance, 15 residents, including children, have been rescued from floodwaters.
The NWS issued a flash flood watch for the area that lasts until early Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.