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Parts of Virginia city evacuated because of flood risk

LYNCHBURG, Va. — A dam that overflowed this week after heavy rains is stable, Lynchburg officials said Friday, but they asked people who were removed from their homes to stay away until dry weather returns.

City officials said engineers had found that the College Lake Dam was not in immediate danger of failing. But they want to get through another possible storm and reevaluate the dam Saturday before giving residents the all-clear to return.

‘‘We’re still concerned about its overall stability going into tonight and tomorrow morning,’’ said Tim Mitchell, the city’s director of water resources. ‘‘But we are pretty confident at this point that the dam is stable and safe.’’

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The National Weather Service had a flash-flood watch in effect through Friday, and more rain is forecast through Saturday.

Heavy rains Thursday filled College Lake beyond capacity, prompting officials to report that the dam could be at risk of ‘‘imminent failure.’’ The Weather Service said a failure of the dam could flood parts of Lynchburg with 17 feet of water in just seven minutes.

Officials said emergency personnel evacuated about 150 homes in the city of 80,000. Local fire and police used boats to rescue people in some cases.

Several streets were closed Friday and city officials asked residents not to drive around barricades or through standing water.

Lynchburg police Chief Raul Diaz warned potential looters that police were closely watching evacuated homes. ‘‘We’re out there; we’re watching,’’ he said.

The University of Lynchburg, which sits next to College Lake, was open Friday. Its main entrance was closed and visitors were asked to use back entrances to campus.

In Queens, N.Y., officials confirmed that a tornado touched down in the College Point neighborhood late Thursday evening, toppling at least 50 trees, crushing a car, and leaving about 60 homes without power.

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The twister was about three-quarters of a mile long and 100 yards wide. It roared through nine city blocks in about 10 minutes before dying down.

Associated Press