Lake Oroville area residents given evacuation order

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The Butte County Sheriff’s Department issued this statement on social media:

This is an evacuation order.

Immediate evacuation from the low levels of Oroville and areas downstream is ordered.
A hazardous situation is developing with the Oroville Dam auxiliary spillway. Operation of the auxiliary spillway has lead to severe erosion that could lead to a failure of the structure. Failure of the auxiliary spillway structure will result in an uncontrolled release of flood waters from Lake Oroville.

In response to this developing situation, DWR is increasing water releases to 100,000 cubic feet per second.

Immediate evacuation from the low levels of Oroville and areas downstream is ordered.

This in NOT A Drill. This in NOT A Drill. This in NOT A Drill.

The water from the Oroville Dam emergency spillway rushing down to the Feather River (CDWR)

In other words, the Oroville Dam is in danger of failing. The Sheriff’s Department said, “An evacuation center is set up at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico.”

The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Warning for the area.

If you live in that area, or know someone who does, take note. For evacuation information you can call (530) 538.7826 and watch their Facebook page for updates.

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UPDATE 8 p.m. February 12: The emergency spillway continues to erode and water is now rushing down into the Feather River. The California Department of Water Resources said the erosion hasn’t harmed the dam itself, which is the tallest Dam in America.

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UPDATE 10 p.m. February 12: The Butte County Sheriff’s Department and DWR said, “Flows over the auxiliary spillway have ceased. 100,000 cfs continue down the main spillway.”

A large hole had developed at the top of the auxiliary (emergency) spillway and the Sheriff’s Department, CAL Fire and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) said early Sunday evening the auxiliary spillway was eroding much faster than they had anticipated. The began using rocks and boulders to plug the hole.

The weather report for the area has more rain coming in the next 2-3 days and the DWR expects the flow into the reservoir to continue as runoff from the storms continues to fill Lake Oroville.

Water killing over the Oroville Dam auxiliary spillway Sunday (YouTube)

The American River flowing through downtown Sacramento is at its highest level in 20 years and if the situation with the Oroville Dam gets worse flooding could occur in the state capitol. The Feather River, which the Oroville Dam feeds, runs into the American River.

All the public safety departments warn residents in Butte, Yuba, Sutter and Colusa Counties that the situation is still dangerous.

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UPDATE Feb. 13, 11 a.m.: Yolo County has opened up an evacuation shelter at the Yolo County Fairgrounds. Local and state officials have activated thousands of people, including California Highway Patrol officers, to assist in this crisis.

It isn’t over. The water has stopped cascading over the auxiliary spillway, which is damaged, but water is still rushing out of the main spillway, which is also damaged, at 100,000 CFS — that’s 100k cubic feet of water per second or, 748,052 gallons of water per second.

Bill Croyle, the acting director of the Department of Water Resources told the media they hadn’t seen any further damage in the main spillway as this massive amount of water comes rushing from Lake Oroville. They want to lower the water level by 50 feet and they don’t have much time. Within two days another storm system is going to drop a lot more rain and fill up the reservoir. Right now is flowing into Lake Oroville at 40,000 CFS. A storm will add to that number.

Butte County Sheriff Kory L. Honea speaking to the media Sunday (Butte County Sheriff’s Dept)

The erosion of the hillside below the auxiliary spillway worries officials. If that hillside falls apart officials believe a 30-foot high wall of water would come down the hill. The auxiliary spillway had never been used before water began rushing over it Sunday morning. The dam was was completed in 1968.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the area. In a statement he said, “I’ve been in close contact with emergency personnel managing the situation in Oroville throughout the weekend, and it’s clear the circumstances are complex and rapidly changing.”

Butte County Sheriff Kory L. Honea is reluctant to lift the evacuation order in light of the uncertainty surrounding the stability of the two spillways and the prospect for more rain this week.

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UPDATE Feb. 14, 2 p.m.: The Butte County Sheriff’s Department posted a statement on Facebook concerning the Oroville Dam crisis. “Butte County Sheriff’s Office to Reduce Immediate Evacuation Order to Evacuation Warning”

In the statement the Sheriff’s Department said, “Due to lower lake levels, further inspections, ongoing work to shore-up the Oroville Dam emergency spillway and updated weather forecasts, effective at 1:00 p.m. today, the Evacuation Order for the Oroville Dam Spillway Incident has been reduced to an Evacuation Warning. Any resident displaced by the evacuation may return home at 1:00 p.m.; however all residents are advised to remain vigilant and prepared as conditions can rapidly change. People who have special needs or require extended time to evacuate should consider remaining evacuated.”

The statement also said they had viewed the weather forecasts and saw that the coming storm would be colder and have less rain that last week.

Butte County Sheriff’s Department

The Sheriff said, “An evacuation center will remain open at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. All other evacuation centers supported by Butte County will be closed. Residents from other centers who are still seeking shelter due to the Evacuation Warning can go to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds”

The statement address the needs of disabled citizens, “Disabled residents who need assistance with transportation home should call (530) 342-0221 for para-transport. Local agencies and medical facilities are determining when patients can be returned to evacuated hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.”

People with animals at the evacuation centers should pick them up from the Silver Dollar Fairground, “Residents who evacuated animals to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds should collect their animals as soon as possible if returning home. Large animals can remain at the evacuation center, but owners are advised to secure an alternative location for animals that is outside the area under the Evacuation Warning. Owners are required to find transportation to get animals home or to an alternate location. A strict animal release protocol will be adhered to at the Silver Dollar Fairground. Animal owners must have photo ID and pink copy of the animal intake form.”

The bottom line is the danger isn’t over. People should still be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

You can read the entire statement here.

Top photo from CA-DWR of auxiliary spillway at Oroville Dam