It was an immediate warning — grab your kids and head for higher ground in the evacuation of 200,000 residents below the Oroville Dam. Some of the people fleeing their homes appeared on Fox and Friends Monday morning and described the fear of having to literally flee their homes at a moment’s notice.
Oroville Dam is the country’s tallest dam, standing at about 770-feet, which is about 44-feet higher than the wall that makes up Colorado’s Hoover Dam. On Sunday the evacuation got underway after a hole was discovered in the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway.
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) February 13, 2017
This damage to the dam’s main spillway is threatening to flood the surrounding area. As the evacuation of 200,000 people got underway, so did the traffic jams on every major highway and road leading out of the area.
While workers scrambled to take the pressure off the dam by draining the water, serious concerns remain with more storms promised in the coming days. This will only put more pressure on the already-taxed dam.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) February 13, 2017
According to the Washington Post, there is no danger of the Oroville Dam collapsing, the problem lies totally within the dam’s spillways. These spillways are made up of a group of safety valves designed to drain some of the water to prevent it from breaching the dam. The valves supply a way to release the water in a controlled fashion.
It was erosion to the main spillway that gave way, which created a huge hole. When the spillway crumbled, it sent chunks of concrete flying. Sheets of water spilled over the emergency spillway of the dam causing an urgent situation. This was the first time this has happened in the 50-year history of the Oroville Dam.
— David Grashoff (@CameraGuyDave1) February 13, 2017
The California drought has left the Oroville lake, which is the body of water held back by the dam, at a steady level for years. The influx of major storms in the area left water draining into Lake Oroville days after the storms were gone from the area. To add even more urgency to the situation, more storms are expected in the coming week. The acting director of the state’s Department of Water Resources held a news conference late Sunday night.
Bill Croyle told the reporters, “Once we have damage to a structure like that, it’s catastrophic.” Croyle was talking about the hole that eroded in the main spill way. He continued by saying “We determined we could not fix the hole. You don’t just throw a little bit of rock in it.”
He was very quick to say that the call for an evacuation was “not a drill.” They are anticipating “a possible catastrophe” for the area surrounding Lake Oroville by calling for this evacuation. On Monday morning Fox and Friends spoke to some of the people fleeing the area, and they described the phone calls that came in telling them to leave their homes due to a possible flood.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the biggest worry was the eroding hillside that keeps water in Lake Oroville. With the water rising, fears of the hillside crumbling and sending a 30-foot wall of water rushing at the homes below that area became a major concern, cites Cal-Fire incident commander Kevin Lawson that press conference on Sunday night.
With everyone leaving the area at once, some people were panicking, according to one woman Fox interviewed. The traffic is horrendous, and in some places, it is like a parking lot. April Torlone was at work when she got the flood emergency call on her phone. She said by the time she ran home she had about 10 minutes to grab some clothes and the ashes of her late father, reports the Washington Post.
— Cecile Juliette KHSL (@CecileJuliette) January 15, 2017
As 200,000 displaced people set out to find a place to stay, people offered up rooms in their homes via Twitter. Churches, schools, and other community centers opened up to the people who were fleeing the prospective flood area.
[Featured Image by Rich Pedroncelli/AP Images]