Mississippi Dam Failure ‘Imminent,’ Evacuations Ordered

As Tropical Storm Isaac continues to pound Louisiana and Mississippi, an official has acknowledged that a dam near the Louisiana-Mississippi border threatened to fail, prompting officials to urge as many as 60,000 people to evacuate.

Mayor Whitney Rawlings of McComb, Mississippi believes that there is a “50-50 chance” that the dam could fail at Lake Tangipahoa in Mississippi’s Percy Quinn State Park, reports CBS News.

Rawlings urged those south of the dam to evacuate, saying that, “People need to be moving. Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess also issued an emergency warning, saying that the area should expect “imminent failure” at the dam. Burgess added that 50,000 to 60,000 people were given 90 minutes to evacuate.

Even though Isaac has weakened to tropical storm strength, it has continued to spin off life-threatening weather, including storm surges, inland flooding, and potential tornadoes. 903,000 homes and businesses around the state of Louisiana (47 percent of all customers) are without power.

NBC News notes that Mississippi officials do not thing that the volume of water in the 700-acre lake would add enough flow to threaten communities downstream, even if the dam fails. Lt. Col. Michael Kazmierzak, a Louisiana National Guard spokesman stated on Thursday morning that:

“We still have people penned in both (Plaquemines and St. John) parishes. We’re still assisting with evacuations in both of those parishes. The big thing we’ve been doing through the night is with St. John’s. We’ve assisted locals with evacuations of more than 3,000 people [there].”

New Orleans, where devastating floods were seen seven years ago with the passing of Hurricane Katrina, seems to have escaped the worst of the storm, thanks to the protection of federal levees. Rural areas of Louisiana and Mississippi have not been so lucky.