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.
In Toccoa, BILL STACY, 19, who lived with his parents in a trailer, said: "I heard a bunch of people screaming and hollering. There was this terrible screeching noise .. the trailers were all over the place -- some floating, some just came apart."
Gov. GEORGE BUSBEE, who flew to Toccoa, said the state would begin monitoring "as of this moment" 84 dams in the state that have been classified highly hazardous by the federal Corps of Engineers. He said the dams would be examined, not because they posed imminent danger, but because of the recent heavy rainfall.
BUSBEE said the state would investigate the dam break, but that "this is no time to start blaming anyone."
The president of the college, KENN OPPERMAN, said the dam, weakened by several days of hard rain, had been inspected in the past few days. He said, however, he didn't know whether any government agency might have taken part in the inspection.
"We had some flash flooding and as a result of that we inspected the dam," he said. "I'm of the opinion that it was a routine inspection."
The creek had risen to near flood stage Saturday night, and volunteer fireman were advising residents of houses and mobile homes in the area to leave as a precaution. Two of the firemen were killed when the dam broke.
The dam and lake are on property owned by the college, and water from the lake normally filters down a scenic 187-foot rock drop known as Toccoa Falls. It then runs into a creek which meanders through the campus of the non-denominational school, which has about 600 students and faculty and is operated by the Christian and Missionary Alliance of Nyack, N. Y.
Florence Morning News South Carolina 1977-11-07
Toccoa, Ga. (AP) -- Here is a list of those killed at Toccoa Falls:
KAREN ANDERSON, 29, a married student, and her children JOEY ANDERSON and BECKY ANDERSON, all of Toccoa Falls.
JERRY BRITTON, 23, dormitory student, Olean, N. Y.
RUTH MOORE, 24, secretary of the Toccoa Falls College Alumni Association and her infant son, JEREMIAH, both of Toccoa Falls.
BILL EHRENSBERGER, 28, volunteer fireman, his wife PEGGY, 27, and their children ROBERT, CHRISTI and KENNY, all of Toccoa Falls.
TIA HARNER, 24, wife of a student and her child, ROBBY, both of Toccoa Falls.
RICHARD SWIRES, 21, Akron, Ohio.
MARY JO GINTHER, 26, and her children NANCY, BRENDA, RHONDA and TRACY, all of Toccoa Falls.
ELOISE PINNEY, 26, Toccoa Falls.
DAVID FLEDDERJOHANN, 30, volunteer fireman, Toccoa Falls.
BETTY JEAN WOERNER, 40, secretary to the college president, and her daughter, DEBORAH, 16, both of Toccoa Falls.
MARY WILLIAMS, 75, 35 years on the college staff, Toccoa Falls.
CORY HANNA, 30, dormitory student, Vero Beach, Fla.
EDWARD PEPSNY, 36, theology professor, his wife, CAROL, 35, and their children PAUL and BONNIE, all of Toccoa Falls.
CASS METZGER, 28, and her son DERICK, both of Toccoa Falls.
CHRIS KEMP, 4, son of a college staff member, Toccoa Falls.
JAMIE VEER, 4, son of a college staff member, Toccoa Falls.
MONROE RUPP, 75, Toccoa Falls.
MELISSA, JOSLYN and JOANNA SPROULL, all of Toccoa Falls.
Authorities reported these persons missing:
DR. JERRY SPROULL, 45, Toccoa Falls.
PAUL WILLIAMS, about 76, Toccoa Falls.
Listing from Charleston Daily Gazette West Virginia 1977-11-07