6 November 1977

The Kelly Barnes Dam, located above Toccoa Falls College near Toccoa, Georgia, fails, killing 39

The Kelly Barnes Dam collapse, also known as the Toccoa Falls Dam failure, occurred on November 6, 1977. The dam, located near Toccoa, Georgia, failed due to heavy rainfall caused by the remnants of Hurricane David, which led to the dam’s overflow and eventual breach.

Heavy Rainfall: The primary cause of the dam failure was the exceptionally heavy rainfall associated with the remnants of Hurricane David. The area received several inches of rain in a short period, which led to a rapid increase in the water level behind the dam.

Poor Design and Construction: The dam was originally constructed in the 1890s, and it had several design and construction flaws. The dam was built using a combination of rock, concrete, and earth, and it lacked proper spillway capacity to safely release excess water. Over the years, maintenance and repairs were inadequate, and the dam was not in optimal condition.

Lack of Maintenance and Oversight: The responsibility for maintaining the dam rested with Toccoa Falls Bible College, which owned the dam. The college failed to adequately maintain and inspect the structure, contributing to its deteriorating condition.

Inadequate Warning Systems: The area downstream from the dam was inhabited, but there were insufficient warning systems and emergency plans in place to alert residents in the event of a dam failure.

As a result of these factors, on November 6, 1977, the Kelly Barnes Dam failed, sending a massive wall of water downstream. The sudden release of water resulted in significant destruction and loss of life. The disaster claimed the lives of 39 people and caused extensive damage to the surrounding area.