Evacuations ordered as officials fear Oroville Dam collapse. Twelve years ago, officials were warned that the Oroville Dam wasn’t in good shape. They rejected those concerns. Now, nearly 200,000 people have been evacuated from Butte, Sutter, and Yuba counties amid growing fears that the dam could collapse, putting neighborhoods under 100 feet of water.
The California National Guard is on standby, waiting to be deployed as residents lined up to leave the area on Sunday. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper, and people were frightened and furious.
Gas station manager Raj Gill was told by his manager to evacuate, but chose to stay put and help evacuating residents gas up.
“You can’t even move,” he told the Daily Mail. “I’m trying to get out of here too. I’m worried about the flooding. I’ve seen the pictures – that’s a lot of water.”
It would indeed be a lot of water. Although officials have activated an emergency spillway not put into use for almost 50 years, that may not be enough. A 170 x 250-foot hole on the concrete lip of the dam’s secondary spillway has been exacerbated by flooding from recent storms. Engineers dropped rocks into the hole in order to temporarily plug the water flow.
However, with more bad weather on the way, officials worry that the weakened area of the dam could fail entirely.
Although water is no longer pouring over the damaged area, the evacuation orders are still in place while law enforcement and engineers work to figure out the best course of action.
At a news conference, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea updated residents on the situation.
“There is [sic] still a lot of unknowns,” he said. “We need to continue to lower the lake levels and we need to give the Department of Water Resources time to fully evaluate the situation so we can make the decision to whether or not it is safe to repopulate the area.”
By Dawn Henderson, Earth.com Staff Writer
Image credit: Associated Press