Toccoa, GA Dam Failure and Flood, Nov 1977
37 KILLED IN FAILURE OF GEORGIA DAM.
Toccoa, Ga. (AP) -- At least 37 persons, most of them students and their families asleep at a small Bible college, died early Sunday when an earthen dam burst and sent a 30-foot wall of water smashing through the college campus.
The breakup of the dam at about 1:30 a.m. sent tons of water over 186-foot high Toccoa Falls onto the lower campus of Toccoa Falls Bible College, where some 250 people lived in dormitories, houses and mobile homes at the foot of the falls.
Surviving students at the college prayed at an emotional service later Sunday while law enforcement officers and civil defense workers searched the flood debris for bodies.
Authorities said several more persons were reported missing and more than 40 had been injured.
KENNY CARROLL of Washington, one of the few to escape from the basement of a men's dormitory said: "The Lord woke me up an instant before the water came in."
"I reached over from my bed and was trying to shut the door, but the water forced the door open," CARROLL added. "When I got out of bed, the water was already a foot high. We ran up the stairs and by the time we got there the whole basement was filled up. It just happened in five or six seconds."
DAVE HINKLE, a student from Syracuse, N. Y., said a wave 30 feet high and 40 feet wide poured into the second-story windows of the men's dormitory. The four-story building was extensively damaged, and eight or nine permanent faculty houses in the area were destroyed.
Bodies were found as far away as two miles from the site of the dam, which held back 80-acre Kelley Barnes Lake. Waterlogged mattresses, battered window frames and dozens of uprooted trees littered the banks of the once-small creek swollen by the flooding.
ROSALYNN CARTER, who was informed of the disaster when she and the president attended church services in Washington, flew by government jet to Anderson County, S. C., and then by helicopter to Toccoa in the northeast part of her home state. It was raining lightly as the first lady stepped off the helicopter.
The breakup of the dam came after two days of torrential rains. The skies in northern Georgia were partly cloudy Sunday and at times a bright sun shone down on the devastated campus.
In western North Carolina, five persons died in flooding, including a young mother and two children swept from their mobile home. Dozens of highways were reported flooded and as many as 30 secondary road bridges washed out after thunderstorms dumped up to five inches of rain in a six-hour period Sunday. Several small dams burst, causing extensive damage but no injuries.