Failing Pierce County dam leads to hourslong flash flood warning

Lakeview County Club Lake Dam breached halfway through, sheriff says

BLACKSHEAR, Ga. – Water from Lakeview Country Club Lake slowly poured into a nearby creek Tuesday following a dam breach overnight, authorities said. 

Pierce County Sheriff Ramsey Bennett told News4Jax that the Lakeview County Club Lake Dam breached halfway through late Monday evening. He said the 40-acre lake contains 172 million gallons of water -- about the size of 260 Olympic swimming pools.

Neighbors living along multiple streets were on high alert as officers kept a close eye on the dam overnight and additional crews were called in to help fix the dam and prevent it from breaking, Blackshear Police Chief Chris Wright said.

The breach led to the National Weather Service issuing a flash flood warning for Pierce County that spanned several hours. 

Wright said Highway 121/State Road 15 and the bridge near Fox Trail were closed Monday night as a precaution due to expected high water, but reopened about 8 a.m. the next day.

Throughout Tuesday morning, people in Blackshear stopped by Lakeview Drive to get a glimpse of the dam. As the hours ticked by, more water pushed into a nearby creek. At one point, Wright said, at least 30,000 gallons were being pumped each minute.

By late morning, the lake had receded to the point that people in the area barely recognized it and authorities said there was no longer a threat. 

"I'm flabbergasted. We've never seen our lake this low. We've never had anything like this happen. I've lived there 35 years plus. It's just amazing that this can happen," said neighbor Janie Fields. "We just never experienced anything like this."

Reports by the Blackshear Times indicated the dam had not completely collapsed but continued to allow water to escape through a massive hole that had eroded.

Bennett said the rain did not directly contribute to the failure of the dam, but it didn't help. He said a drain pipe in the about 30-foot earthen dam failed, which allowing water to flow at a steady rate into a nearby creek.

Creek near Blackshear dam
Creek near Blackshear dam

Authorities told News4Jax that the lake will drain itself dry in the next day or so. While people in the area were never told to evacuate, several were concerned about their safety and were grateful Blackshear police alerted them to the situation. 

"They came door to door to let us know what was going on," Blackshear resident Shirley Douglas said. "I would also like to thank all that people, we have a good, Christian town. I'd like to thank all the people that were praying for us."

Areas impacted included Highway 121, between Azalea Street and Whispering Pine Trail. According to the NWS, properties along Lakeview Drive and Edgewood Circle were also threatened.

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