Tempe Dam Break Threatening Tent City

Tempe Dam Break Threatening Tent City

July 21, 2010


Displaced families seeking shelter in desert warmth are now threatened by billions of gallons of water pouring out of Tempe Town Lake.




Tempe Town Lake is draining into the riverbed Tuesday night, as an inflatable bladder filled with water collapses.

There are several bladders, or thick rubber water balloons, on the west side dam of Tempe Town Lake. One of several bladders popped about 10 p.m. and is pouring water into the Salt River.

A witness on the south side of the river says he heard a pop or a blast when all of a sudden, a wall of water came out. His friend called the police, and she says they arrived within seconds.

A large rush of water is now flowing down the Salt River and could be dangerous for people swimming or on the banks of the river. The water is draining at 40,000 cubic feet per second.

Emergency crews are on the scene and are warning people to get out of the way. There are several homeless camps along the river.

Tempe Town Lake is a man-made lake created by damming the Salt River in 1999. It ranges from 12-19 feet deep, is two miles long, and is almost a billion gallons.

The lake could drain all night before crews can get a handle on it.

Hugh Hallman, the mayor of Tempe, says that public safety is their first priority and that Tempe’s emergency system has been activated. An emergency operations center has been set up.

The bladders were supposed to be maintained or replaced by now, but the project was pushed back because of the hefty price tag. It’s not clear why the bladder popped.


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