“The FPL Reservoir’s Catastrophic Dike Failure”
Barley Barber Swamp, the FPL Reservoir and its 1979 Catastrophic Failure (Part 2 of 2), Todd Thurlow, SLR/IRL
Video link “The FPL Reservoir’s Catastrophic Dike Failure” (https://youtu.be/2r1hgFqgIK8)
On Halloween eve, October 30th 1979, the southwest side of the dike embankment at Florida Power & Light Company’s Martin Plant suddenly, and without warning failed catastrophically.
It was the dead of night and certainly the creatures of the nearby Barley Barber Swamp sensed more than their human masters. No person saw the incident. There were no cameras, no guards, no witnesses. It was the 1970s.
We can imagine, though, even though the final report said “not,” that for months sands had been slipping, eroding underground, perhaps led by connection to the old borrow pits dug for the railroad that came through in the 1920s.
My brother Todd’s latest spectacular time capsule flight takes us through this fateful night that by the time Halloween arrived, derailed a southbound train. The conductor reported the incident to his superiors as a “flash flood.” It was eventually realized that this flash flood was part of something much larger in scope!
Even if you know the story, the numbers are staggering…
As Todd notes, when the dike let loose, 100,000 cfs of water (cubic feet per second) blew into L-65, the canal on the edge of the FPL reservoir, and into the C-44 canal connected to the reservoir at S-53. The biggest numbers we hear these days in cfs is about 5000.
Facing west, a wave surged over the sugarcane fields and overtop US 441, traveling north seven miles in the rim canal. S-308 at Port Mayaca flowed backwards, and 4000 cfs entered Lake Okeechobee.
The finally alerted ACOE maxed S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam at 15,800 cfs, (over twice the highest amount of the Lost Summer of 2013 at 5700+/-). Crazy! Todd says the max for S-80 into the St Lucie River is 16,900 cfs. Not too far off were they.
Of course, these peaks would have only been for a few hours, but nonetheless, as is often the case, these kind of numbers mean “instant death for the St Lucie.”
This FPL event traveled much further north than the C-44 canal though; the last paragraph of the SFWMD 1980 report’s “failure section” notes:
“The Rim Canal reached a peak the next day (November 1) at the north end of the basin, 17 miles from the St. Lucie Canal. The flood was contained at this northerly point by the Nubbin Slough Tieback Levee along Canal 59. The maximum area flooded, was about 14,100 acres.”
What a story!
Well, it’s only history, right? But then history has a strange way of repeating itself in one form or another doesn’t it?
WATCH Todd’s VIDEO HERE: “The FPL Reservoir’s Catastrophic Dike Failure” (https://youtu.be/2r1hgFqgIK8)
Interim Final Draft Report on Embankment Failure FPL’s Martin Plant Cooling Reservoir, SFWMD, 1980: http://damsafety.hostguardian.com/media/Documents/DownloadableDocuments/MartinPowerPlantFailureReport.pdf
Palm Beach Post, Post Time, FPL 1979 Dam Collapse Hit Martin County, Elliot Kleinberg :
Read part 1 of this FRL series below:
Part 1, Barley Barber Swamp, the FPL Reservoir and its 1979 Catastrophic Failure (Part 1 of 2) Todd Thurlow/JTL: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/tag/barley-barber-swamp/