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Warning dam could breach, Hope Mills encourages some residents to evacuate

Water released from Hope Mills Lake in hopes of preventing flood waters from overtaking dam

The Hope Mills town manager warned people downstream from Hope Mills Lake south of Fayetteville that flood waters from Hurricane Florence could overtake the dam and spillway. Water was being released in hopes of preventing uncontrolled flooding.
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The Hope Mills town manager warned people downstream from Hope Mills Lake south of Fayetteville that flood waters from Hurricane Florence could overtake the dam and spillway. Water was being released in hopes of preventing uncontrolled flooding.

Fayetteville’s largest suburb is encouraging some residents to evacuate ahead of potentially “catastrophic” rain.

The town of Hope Mills, home to about 15,000 people in Cumberland County, emailed a statement to the press late Saturday night encouraging people to seek safe shelter. The warning was for people who live near Hope Mills Lake and downstream of the dam.

“If we receive the catastrophic rain that is predicted and that is not controllable by a dam and spillway structure; and since we cannot predict with any certainty what will happen with the flooding of the Cape Fear River Basin, we strongly feel that action by you now is warranted,” Melissa Adams, the town manager, said in a statement.

“We expect flood waters are going to overtake the dam possibly sometime Sunday and wanted to notify people tonight,” Adams said.

The warning applies to residents who live on Main Street to Parkton and River roads, as well as people who live along the lake, The Fayetteville Observer reported.

Florence had been downgraded from a Hurricane to a Tropical Storm by the time Hope Mills issued its warning to residents. But it had already toppled countless trees and flooded low areas across the state. Gov. Roy Cooper and weather experts warned North Carolinians on Saturday that Florence will likely drench the state with bring inches upon inches of rain over the weekend.

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Majorie and David Baggett of Fayetteville check out the water rushing the weirs of the Hope Mills Dam in Hope Mills, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. The dam empties into the Cape Fear River. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Hope Mills and its dam have had a tumultuous history.

The dam, then 79-years-old, breached in 2003. It took five years and $14 million to be rebuilt, according to News & Observer archives. And in 2010, only two years after being rebuilt, the dam failed again.

In a phone interview Sunday morning, Adams noted that cresting over the dam doesn’t mean it’s failing. She urged Hope Mills residents to take shelter while they still can.

Hope Mills “became an island” after Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016, Adams said.

“You couldn’t get in and you couldn’t get out. We’re starting to get that way now. Several roads are flooded and areas of those roads are closed,” she said.

Hope Mills Lake was not full when Matthew hit, Adams said. The lake was refilled earlier this year, according to The Fayetteville Observer.

Specht: 919-829-4870 @AndySpecht
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