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Oktibbeha residents urged to evacuate due to ‘imminent’ dam failure, Mississippi

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Mississippi officials urged residents living near the Oktibbeha County Lake Dam to evacuate on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, after heavy rains put a dam at 'imminent' threat of failing and prompted a flash-flood emergency.

"After inspection, the County Engineer believe failure of the dam is imminent," said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MSEMA).

Oktibbeha County EMA Director Karen Campanella said an engineer found extremely high water levels in the lake, which is around 180 km (112 miles) northeast of Jackson.

Furthermore, the engineer, Clyde Pritchard, also discovered that the water has apparently gotten between the dam and the ground beneath it, threatening the structure's integrity.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flash flood emergency in Oktibbeha, as well as in the Jackson metro area, advising residents to seek higher ground as the situation became life-threatening.

Campanella added that although the evacuation is not mandatory, residents near the dam should immediately move a safe distance away.

In a press conference on Monday, January 13, Oktibbeha County emergency managers told the public that approximately 130 homes are in the inundation zone if the dam breaks.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, neighboring Clay County said they plan to declare a local emergency to prepare resources promptly. They also told residents that they may need to evacuate in case.

Meanwhile, heavy rains caused flooding in roadways and parking lots. The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) warned motorists to take caution after flash flooding was reported on Interstate 20.

"Never drive through a flooded roadway," MDOT said. "Turn around, don't drown!"

Earlier on Tuesday, the Warren County Fire Service and Warren County Sherrif's Department in Mississippi rescued a driver from his car trapped in floodwater.

In the city of Pearl, officials rescued one person from floodwaters. Drivers were also warned not to drive around barricades blocking flooded roads.

Officials told residents to expect more rain likely into Wednesday, January 15.

Featured image credit: Google

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