Dam Breaks Sending Gallons Of Water Rushing Downstream

The water swelled and surged, until finally, it forced its way through.  All nearby residents could do was look on as Pure Oil Lake slowly, but surely, broke through the spillway of the dam.

"A friend of mine drove by and said Pure Oil Lake was breaking, and I said, you've got to be kidding?" said Danny Walker.  But it was true: nearly 10 billion gallons covering 350 acres of lake bed were making its way downstream.  Van Zandt County officials told KLTV 7 that a neighbor was out Tuesday morning, checking on his livestock.  He noticed water spilling through cracks in the dam and notified authorities.  A few hours later, the lake which has been a familiar sight in the area for more than 70 years, began to wash away.

"Everybody fished in that lake for years," said Walker.  "Even my grand-daddy fished in there.   I'm 63 years old and I know it has been there that long."

Waters rushed under bridges and over nearby roads--a situation county officials say is actually on the upside.  "If you want a best case scenario on a dam failure, this is what we're experiencing over there," said Chuck Allen, Van Zandt County Fire Marshal.  "Water is coming out at a pretty good [rate], but it's not a sudden collapse of the dam."

But the situation still has officials taking extra precautions.  County Road 4511 was shut down because it lies in the low lying area just east of the spillway in the water's path.  "We got on location and started identifying places downstream, down river that could be effected.  Those landowners were notified," said Allen.

Officials will continue to monitor the situation.  Smith County authorities were also notified.  All that water is expected to raise waters levels along the Neches River.

Layron Livingston, Reporting  llivingston@kltv.com