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Lake dam could fail; up to 20 homes in Bartholomew County threatened

Lake dam could fail; up to 20 homes in Bartholomew County threatened

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) — Almost two dozen homes are under a flash flood watch through Saturday.

A dam about 15 minutes from Columbus is at risk of failing.

The homeowners association is taking action and pumping water to take some stress off the dam. The lake association at Lamberson/Staller Lake refused to talk to News 8. In fact, when News 8 tried to approach one of the board members, her husband threw the news crew off the property, leaving folks downstream like Bruce Otte hoping for the best.

The noise of that pump was a constant audible reminder around Lamberson/Staller Lake in Bartholomew County. The lake is located off County Road 225 South just west of County Road 550 West.

The National Weather Service issuing a flash flood watch at 2:06 p.m. Wednesday that the dam is at risk of failing.

Bartholomew County emergency management officials told The Republic that a contractor looking at the dam noticed water seeping through and alerted authorities.

Water is already flowing through the bottom of the pipe, which serves as a spillway, but a pump is also pushing a lot more downstream to take stress off, too.

“My hope and prayer is that the dam will hold,” Otte said.

Otte lives off County Road 550 West in one of the homes at risk. Some neighbors think of the 20 at stake, his sits the second-closest to trouble if anything happens.

“I definitely walked around my barn down there and my basement and put some of the tools and equipment on a higher thing,” he said.

Other neighbors said they’ve had two big floods in 37 years. The last one was less than a decade ago. Both were caused by excessively heavy rains.

The lake is about 19 acres, but there are a few lakes above and below that flow into succession.

Otte got the call Wednesday afternoon from a friend telling him of the watch.

“What can I do? I can’t move the house,” he said. “There’s no sandbagging you can do. You have to sit back and keep your eyes and ears open, I guess.”

Those living along the lake but on higher ground refused to talk Wednesday afternoon to News 8. That included officials with the lake association.

Meanwhile, Otte said he thinks his main level is high enough regardless, but does worry about the outside wall.

He said he’ll keep checking on conditions throughout the night and keep the dog close as an alarm.

“I’m going to do a lot of praying and we’ll see what the good Lord wants to do,” Otte said. “That’s what you always pray for is a false alarm and just do the best you can if something happens.”

The flash flood watch remains in effect until Saturday afternoon.