Hope Mills town officials borrowed a little advice from former President Ronald Reagan when dealing with the recent arrival of Hurricane Florence and the threat it posed to the newly constructed dam.
As Reagan warned in dealing with the former Soviet Union, “Trust, but verify.’’
That philosophy was applied to the dam, which appears to have held up well in the face of record-setting rainfall that drenched the state for days.
Mark Landis, the engineer of record and project manager for the dam for Schnabel Engineering, received regular updates from Hope Mills officials so he could monitor the amount of rainfall the town was getting and how the structure was holding up.
“I can’t say we weren’t worried, but part of me wasn’t worried as well,’’ Landis said, referring to concerns the dam would hold up during all the rain.
“We could probably have taken on a little bit more,’’ he said, in reference to the rain. “I’ll feel much better when I get to the site and see if there was erosion or scouring.’’
Scouring is when water erodes areas around the dam, especially the parts of it made of earth.
The biggest concern for the new dam was from what Landis called tail water. This is when the water flowing out of the dam and downstream is pre-vented from getting away from the dam and actually begins to back up and put pressure on the side of the dam away from Hope Mills Lake.
If that had happened this time, Landis said, the dam itself, the bridges over it and part of the town of Hope Mills would all have been underwater.
Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner made regular visits to the dam during the hurricane, posting video updates on Facebook to keep the community apprised of what was going on.
“I kept getting calls at night that it had a crack in it or that it was broken,’’ Warner said. Nearly every time she visited, Warner said, there was a crowd of specta-tors or media representatives or both on the scene.
The hurricane experience helped Warner to learn even more about some of the protective measures built into the dam, like the canals on the side opposite Hope Mills Lake that allow water to drain into them and serve to equalize the pressure com-ing from the rising lake waters on the other side.
“I can’t even imagine how much pressure has been put on that dam because the water was moving so fast and it was so continuous,’’ Warner said. “I’m confident it’s going to be fine.’’
Town manager Melissa Adams said the town had a good plan in place to watch the dam and keep readings on what was happening during the storm.
“I think this was a big test for (the dam) and it performed exactly as it should,’’ she said. “Throughout the whole thing, I had full confidence in it, and I believe Mr. Landis did too. Yes, we were con-cerned, but we weren’t concerned about the integ-rity of the structure.’’
Adams said the town leaders will have an after-action meeting to discuss how their emergency plan for the hurricane worked and suggest changes for the future.
“There is always room for improvement,’’ she said. “I think overall we were very well-prepared. The team operated seamlessly.’’
After having endured two major storms in barely two years, Warner thinks the town knows what has to happen moving forward.
“I think you just have to stay on your guard,’’ she said.