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MIDLOTHIAN (CBSDFW.COM) – Officials in Midlothian on Wednesday were concerned that a dam might break, but engineers are now saying that it will hold after all. The fears happened at Padera Lake, located along Highway 287 in Ellis County, just to the north of the city.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture told the Midlothian Police Department of the possible dam failure on Wednesday morning.
Ellis County emergency management coordinator Stephanie Parker stated that the recent rain had created a leak in the dam, and water began flowing over the top.
Capt. John Spann explained that the earthen dam had been in the process of being rebuilt for over a year. The piece of the dam that was at risk of breaking was a temporary wall of dirt to hold the lake in place until a permanent dam could be reconstructed.
Engineers have been watching this site for the past two weeks.
The Ellis County Engineer and the builder of the dam assessed the situation early Wednesday and determined that the dam was secure, and would not break as originally thought. The Texas Commission for Environmental Quality oversees dams, and has also looked at the situation. Until they give an all-clear, precautionary safety measures remain in place.
“I’m concerned about it, but I’m not an engineer,” said Chief Carl Smith with the Midlothian Police Department. “We are going to lean on their expertise to say whether that dam is consistently secure. Our preliminary information is that it can handle the amount of water currently behind it.”
Residents who live in 25 homes located downstream from the lake were still told to evacuate on Wednesday, but Parker said that the water flow was never expected to be dangerous. Those homes are located in Grand Prairie, not Midlothian, Spann added.
Due to the possible break, the National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning for northwestern Ellis County on Wednesday morning. Areas between Highway 287 and FM 661 — mostly farmland — were at risk of flooding. Livestock was moved to higher ground.
“All of us are watching it very closely,” Parker said. “The best case scenario is happening and we hope it continues to do so.”
Crews on Wednesday used pumps to lower the water level safely. If the dam had broken, that water could have possibly rushed over the highway as it flowed straight into Joe Pool Lake in Grand Prairie.
Even if the dam survives Wednesday, police and homeowners in Ellis County are still worried about how it will hold up in the coming days, when even more rain is expected to fall across North Texas.