File this one under “strange-but-true.”  

Recently we were notified about possible impacts to a dam that we are the Engineer-in-Charge of in Southern Maryland.  SMC has been working for the owners of the dam, the Chesapeake Bay Ranch Estates, since 2010, providing a wide range of high hazard dam services.

The dam is classified as a Significant Hazard Dam, which means that it could result in severe damage should it happen to fail.  Per Maryland Department of the Environment, Dam Safety Division requirements, SMC completed and updates an Emergency Action Plan (EAP).  The EAP sets forth who should should be notified in the event water levels behind the dam reach higher levels or if the dam shows signs of possible failure.  While these regulations are important in emergency situations, they also ensure that dam owners understand their infrastructure, its risks, and what to do in the case of extreme circumstances that may impact the dam.

SMC’s engineer inspects one of two box culvert outfall barrels.

In this case, our client showed that they have a thorough understanding of what actions to take when things go awry.  

In January, 2019, residents of Chesapeake Ranch Estates near the Lake Lariat dam felt what seemed like an earthquake.  One resident stated, “Out of the blue, I felt the whole house shake. When we got here [Lake Lariat], I saw a lot of emergency vehicles, I saw smoke and the first thing we thought was maybe there was a plane crash.”  

Was it an earthquake?  A plane crash? Nope. It was a huge explosion caused by an RV rolling down a hill, through a wooded area, and hitting a propane tank.  The good news was that only one person had minor injuries and the resulting fire was extinguished by the fire department before spreading.

Because the explosion was so large and was close to the dam, the General Manager of Chesapeake Ranch Estates followed the guidance in the EAP quickly notified us of the situation.  Given the dam’s outfall structure is concrete that is well over 50 years old and with the reports of the explosion causing the ground to shake, SMC’s engineers advised that an emergency inspection by our engineers was recommended.  

Fortunately our inspection did not find any damage caused by the explosion.  We congratulate the management of Chesapeake Ranch Estates on their swift action and adherence to their Emergency Action Plan!  

SMC’s engineer inspects the Lake Lariat outfall.

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