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Dam Failure


Dam failures or levee breaches can occur with little warning, sometimes within hours – or less – of the first signs of structural concerns. Dams can fail for one or a combination of the following reasons:

  • Overtopping caused by floods that exceed the capacity of the dam
  • Structural failure of materials used in construction
  • Movement and/or failure of the foundation
  • Settlement and cracking of concrete or embankment
  • Piping and internal erosion of soil in embankment dams
  • Inadequate maintenance and upkeep
  • Deliberate acts of sabotage
  • A Flood Watch means there is a possibility of flooding or a flash flood watch.
  • A Flash Flood Watch means flash flooding is possible.  Be prepared to move to higher ground.  A flash flood can occur without any warning.
  • A Flood Warning means a flood is occurring or will likely occur soon. If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • An Excluded Area (Zone X) on a FEMA flood map is an area that is protected by a dam or levee that would otherwise be in the Special Flood Hazard Area, or “100-year floodplain”; properties in excluded zones are not required to carry flood insurance to get a mortgage, but owners should strongly consider it regardless.
  • An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a formal document that identifies potential emergency conditions at a dam and specifies actions to be followed to minimize loss of life and property damage.


  • Sign up for Wayne County Alerts and have a battery or crank powered NOAA weather radio available.
  • Decide early whether you will evacuate, and where you will go if ordered to leave.
  • Disconnect electrical appliances.
  • Know if your residence or business is in a floodplain or an “excluded area” that is protected by a dam or levee but would otherwise be within the Special Flood Hazard Area.
  • Apply for flood insurance, even if you may be in an “excluded area” or otherwise not be required to do so.
  • Learn First Aid.
  • Refer to Power Outage/Blackout and Medical Emergency Annexes.
  • If you encounter rising water, move to higher ground immediately.
  • Always stay clear from floodwaters.
  • Do not drive through flooded roads – “turn around, don’t drown.”
  • Stay away from downed power lines to avoid the risk of shock or electrocution.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
  • Return home when local officials say it is safe.
  • Avoid walking or driving through floodwaters.
  • Do not eat any food that may have come in contact with flood water. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home.
  • Check in with family and friends by texting or using social media.

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