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The Flood of 1916: India Hook/Lake Wylie Dam

The Flood of 1916: India Hook/Lake Wylie Dam

In 1899, Dr. Walker Gill Wylie founded what would later become the Southern Power Company and funded the construction of the India Hook Dam. Construction on the dam began in 1900, however a 1901 flood effectively destroyed the unfinished dam and construction had to be postponed. With additional funding from one of Dr. Wylie’s patients, James Buchanan Duke, construction on the dam was restarted. Construction finished in April of 1904, and the India Hook Dam became the first major hydroelectric dam constructed on the Catawba River. It provided hydroelectric power to many counties along the North Carolina/South Carolina Border, including the greater Charlotte area. Building the dam also created a large man-made reservoir behind the dam (which would later be named Lake Wylie after the Southern Power Company president).

Headline from the Charlotte Observer.  In the days following the flood, plans were finalized to construct three new hydroelectric dams further north on the Catawba in order to generate power and try and prevent a flood of this magnitude from occurring again.

Headline from the Charlotte Observer. In the days following the flood, plans were finalized to construct three new hydroelectric dams further north on the Catawba in order to generate power and try and prevent a flood of this magnitude from occurring again.

During the high waters and winds in the storm of 1916 the India Hook Dam developed a large crack. By the end of the storm the entire eastern portion of the dam had been washed away leaving both the dam and the lake effectively destroyed. Additionally, the downstream powerhouse was damaged by the floodwaters. The dam and powerhouse were repaired following the flood. However, this failure demonstrated the need for design improvements to prevent further incidents. In 1924, renovations led to the construction of a dam four times taller and with a higher power output than the original dam. This new India Hook dam remained a major source of power to the area until the completion of Duke Energy’s Catawba Nuclear Station in the 1980’s.

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