NEW YORK (Reuters) – Authorities have warned of possible spillover from a Maryland dam as Hurricane Irene brought severe flooding to much of the region, though they played down earlier concerns that the dam itself could fail.
"Due to the extreme rain event caused by Hurricane Irene, a notification is being issued for a potential Dam Failure situation that may cause significant flooding that could threaten people, homes and roads downstream from the St. Mary's Lake Dam," the St. Mary's County Government website said late on Saturday.
It urged residents in the immediate downstream area to move family and pets upstairs or to a high place with a means of escape, but it warned them not to drive through flood water.
But the manager of St. Mary's River Park told the NBC affiliate in Washington D.C. on Sunday that the dam was not in danger and that water would start to enter a spillway as lake levels rose.
If the water went over the spillway, she said, 28 people could be affected.
The population of St Mary's County is just over 105,000, according the latest U.S. census. CNN reported that the county had already received seven inches of rain from the storm -- nearly twice the average for the entire month.
(Reporting by Ben Berkowitz and Claudia Parsons; Editing by Todd Eastham and Christopher Wilson)