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High-risk College Lake Dam forces dozens to evacuate

There is no timeline for when evacuees will be back in their homes

LYNCHBURG, Va. – The high-risk situation at the College Lake Dam forced dozens of people to evacuate their homes, and many said they're grateful for the help they're getting from the American Red Cross. 

The Red Cross has been in E.C. Glass High School for the past two days and has housed about a hundred evacuees. On Friday night, 25 people will be sleeping in the school until they get the all clear. 

Many, like Fallyn Phillips, came to the shelter with just family members and pets. 

"I'm hoping the damn holds and there's no damage for anybody," said Philips, a displaced mother. 

Crews are continuing work on the dam Friday night while neighborhoods below sit mostly empty. 

The Red Cross mobilized when the evacuations were ordered. 

"They brought us in with open arms, welcomed us, they gave us a place to stay, they fed us well," said Carlotta Jeter, an evacuee staying in E.C. Glass. 

Evacuations weren't mandatory - some people never left, and others decided to go back. 

Police say they want people out, but will go to help if there is an emergency situation. 

"The purpose for us asking people to leave those areas is because that creates more of a situation for us but yes those folks if they call 911 we're going to respond," said Raul Diaz, chief of the Lynchburg Police Department. 

While families said they're anxious to get home, they're also relieved they had somewhere to turn. 

Volunteers have provided meals throughout the day, as well as offering healthcare items and other supplies. 

Despite initial reports, officials don't believe dam failure is imminent. But, better safe than sorry leaves mostly empty neighborhoods, so police are stepping up their presence to make sure homes are secure. 

 "We transitioned very quickly, we went from evacuation to security and we're still securing so we're out there, we're watching, so don't anybody get any ideas," said Diaz. 

Some thought long and hard about whether to stay sheltered Friday night. For others, the decision made itself. 

"If the dam breaks, then you only had seven minutes to get out and I knew none of us could swim so I had no choice," said Jeter. 

The shelter will remain open until people are told it is safe to return home. 

On Saturday at 8 a.m., there will be a meeting between officials to decide when that may be.