Honolulu warns residents after storm swells dam water levels

HONOLULU (AP) — Honolulu officials said a dam holding 21 million gallons (80 million liters) of water was not in danger of collapsing Thursday, but still warned nearly 10,000 residents downstream that they might need to evacuate after a tropical storm caused water levels to rise in the reservoir.

Water levels in the dam rose 4-to-5 feet (nearly 1.5 meters) overnight as heavy rains from Tropical Storm Olivia dumped 7.3 inches (18 centimeters) of rain in the area. Meteorologists downgraded the storm to a tropical depression as it moved away from the islands, but warned lingering moisture could bring more rain.

The Board of Water Supply, the agency that manages the dam, said plans call for a mandatory evacuation if the water reaches 1 foot (30 centimeters) under the top of the dam.

The water was 5 feet below the top of the dam at midday Thursday. It’s also 18 inches (45 centimeters) below a spillway. Areas downstream would flood if water goes over the spillway, said Ernie Lau, the agency’s chief engineer.

“We want people to know, if you live near a dam and were the dam to fail, these would be areas we would want to evacuate before the failure of the dam,” Lau said. “But we’re nowhere close to that.”

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