Puerto Rico Dam Failing; Flash Flood Emergency Declared… ‘EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SITUATION’

A dam in northwest Puerto Rico is failing, causing flash flooding and prompting emergency evacuations Friday, the National Weather Service said.

Operators of the Guajataca Dam said it failed at 2:10 p.m. ET, prompting the NWS to issue a flash flood emergency warning for Isabela and Quebradillas municipalities, the agency said in three tweets.

“This is an EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SITUATION. Busses are currently evacuating people from the area as quickly as they can,” NWS San Juan said.

The island is still reeling from a direct hit by Hurricane Maria, knocking out power and communications to most of the island.

An alert on the weather service’s website urged people in the area of Guajataca Dam to “Move to higher ground now.”

“This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation. Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order,” the alert said.

Details remained sketchy about the evacuation with communications hampered after the storm. The 345-yard (316-meter) dam holds back a manmade lake covering about 2 square miles and was built decades ago, U.S. government records show.

Federal reservoir data show that the lake behind the dam, Lago de Guajataca, rose more than three feet between Tuesday and Wednesday, when the hurricane hit as a Category 4 storm. More recent data were unavailable.
The dam was built in 1929 by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and is used for drinking water and irrigation. It had a capacity of 11 billion gallons in 1999, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Sources: AP and NBC4 Washington

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