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FLOODING: Evacuation order in Pulaski, potential of dam failure decreases in Wythe Co.

Several roads are closed throughout the region.

January 31, 2013|WDBJ7 Web Staff
Dan Sweeney/WDBJ7

Heavy rains have caused widespread flooding across the WDBJ7 viewing area.

The New River Valley was especially hard hit.

Evacuations have been ordered in parts of Pulaski County, and Wythe County officials are warning of a potential dam failure that would affect the areas of Ivanhoe and Austinville.


According to Appalachian Power and the National Weather Service, the threat of a dam failure at the Byllesby/Buck hydroelectric dam on the New River has been downgraded.

Officials in Wythe County warned residents of a potential dam failure earlier Thursday.

Here is the statement from Appalachian Power:

Water conditions have improved throughout the day on many of the rivers on which Appalachian Power operates hydroelectric facilities in Virginia. An earlier potential dam failure emergency condition has been lifted. 

·  Around 2:30 p.m. Appalachian downgraded the emergency conditions on a portion of the New River to a non-failure emergency condition. Earlier today the company notified emergency officials in proximity to the company's Byllesby and Buck hydroelectric facilities near Ivanhoe that there was a potential failure situation. That situation has been removed.  Flashboards, oak boards atop the dam structure designed to give way, had to be manually removed. With the flashboards in place, water pressure was building up to potentially unsafe levels behind the dams. After their removal engineers inspected the dams and determined that the structures were stable.


· At Claytor Dam on the New River the company inflows have decreased and spillway gates are able to be closed. The water released from the project has been cut from 72,000 cubic feet of water per second (cfs) to 68,000 cfs. The water level behind the dam has decreased from 1848.4 to 1846.5. Normal full-pond elevation is 1846. Downstream water levels should continue to subside. Residents in this area should watch the Radford USGS for current information.

·  Some tributaries feeding the Smith Mountain Project  have crested, while the Pigg River flows continues to climb. The current water level at Smith Mountain Dam is about 795 feet above sea level. The company does not anticipate the elevation exceeding 795.5 at this time.

·  At Altavista, downstream of Leesville Dam, flood conditions have improved slightly. The company is holding water in Leesville, and will release inflows in a manner that does not increase downstream flooding conditions.

·   At Reusens Dam on the James River near Lynchburg flows continue to increase and are now at approximately 43,500. Flows are expected to increase throughout the night. The company is releasing inflows through the spillway gates and will monitor conditions closely.


5 p.m. update from Pulaski County Emergency Management: The flood waters from the New River have crested and are now beginning to recede.  However, the evacuation notice stands as it is still dangerous to return to these areas which may be under water and impassable by vehicles.  Many roads will also become dangerous this evening as temperatures drop causing slick, icy areas and debris from the flooded roads will remain. Citizens are asked to call 994-2602 between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm for non-emergency information and to report property damage.  Callers can leave a message after hours and the call will be returned.

For more on this story, click here.


UPDATE 11:40 a.m.: An emergency shelter has been opened at Pulaski High School. Click here for more details about the shelter.

This is the news release from Pulaski County officials about a mandatory evacuation:

Due to the high flood waters Pulaski County has declared a state of local emergency. Based on the

current and anticipated flooding in low lying areas, the county is issuing a mandatory evacuation for the following communities: Parrott, Belspring, Hiwassee, Delton, and Allisonia. Those residents who are in danger of flooding by the New River should plan to evacuate immediately. A reverse 911 call has been issued to these communities to advise citizens and law enforcement and fire department personnel are also canvassing these neighborhoods.

Pulaski County is establishing a shelter at the Pulaski County High School and is in process of being staffed. It will open later today and details will be forthcoming.

Citizens can call 911 in case of emergency but are asked to 994-2602 for non-emergency information.


Roanoke officials are urging residents to use caution along the Roanoke River, which has crested at 12.4 feet. The last time the Roanoke River crested this high was in December of 2006 when it reached 12.8 feet. To see aerial photos of the Roanoke River, click here.

Parts of the river went over its bank along the greenway, low-water bridges, and some roads.

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