In an unprecedented move, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office issued an immediate evacuation order for residents of Oroville, in California, and nearby towns on Sunday afternoon after the development of a hazardous situation on the emergency spillway of the Oroville Dam. According to an L.A. Times report, the National Weather Service had earlier issued a warning saying that the auxiliary spillway at the Oroville Dam could fail by 5:45 p.m. local time and as a result, there could be an “uncontrolled release of flood waters from Lake Oroville.”
According to Supervisor Bill Connelly, people who live in downtown Oroville, Thermalito, and Palermo, should immediately evacuate their homes and businesses and move to higher ground elsewhere. Authorities have already set up an evacuation center at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico. Another place for people to huddle together is the RV park belonging to the Elks Lodge in Paradise
The official Facebook page of the Butte County Sheriff’s Department also issued an emergency evacuation order.
“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 county of Sutter’s office of emergency management also released an official statement through their Facebook page.
“We have received information about the potential for increased flows in the Feather River of as much as 100,000 cubic feet per second. We are gathering as much information as possible and will be providing additional information as soon as it is verified.”
The Oroville Dam, which is also the tallest dam in the U.S. at 770-feet tall, has been in the news for the better part of this week. The dam also resulted in the creation of Lake Oroville, the second largest man-made lake in California, capable of storing more than 3.5 million acre-feet (4.4 km3) of water.
The current situation started on February 7 after a crater appeared on the spillway of the dam in the midst of what was supposed to be a controlled flood control release. The release of more than 50,000 cubic feet of water from Oroville Lake caused a crater to appear in the spillway of the dam. Authorities were however forced to use the damaged spillway as the Oroville Lake continued to receive high inflows. In the meantime, they also readied the emergency spillway — also known as the auxiliary spillway. This was also the first time the auxiliary spillway had been used on the Oroville Dam. As the inflows into the lake continued, the hole on the main spillway had grown to more than 300 feet (91 m) wide, 500 feet (150 m) long, and 45 feet (14 m) deep by February 10.
All the water being drained from the Oroville Dam is flowing into the Feather River. This river runs through downtown Oroville and several other smaller towns. The National Weather Service has issued flash flood warnings across several communities in the region.
If you happen to be anywhere near the area, you are requested to move as far as possible from the areas that are affected by the possible dam failure.
[Featured Image By William Croyle/California Department of Water Resources/AP Images]