Oroville Dam Evacuation Order Lifted As Water Level Drops
Tuesday, 14 February 2017 With the water level at California's Lake Oroville receding ahead of tomorrow's forecast rainfall, California officials lifted the evacuation orders for residents downstream of Oroville Dam, saying the dam may hold up to upcoming storms although following the government's failure to be forthright with the citizens, it is unclear how many of the almost 200,000 residents who were told to evacuate in the last possible moment after erosion threatened the emergency spillway, will return.
The Butte County Sheriff’s Department cited “lower lake levels, further inspections, ongoing work to shore-up the Oroville Dam emergency spillway and updated weather forecasts” to announce the change at 1pm local time on Tuesday.
Butte County Sheriff’s Office to Reduce Immediate Evacuation
Order to Evacuation Warninghttps://t.co/G70zQMQKlb
— Butte County Sheriff (@ButteSheriff) February 14, 2017
But Honea cautioned residents and business owners to "maintain situational awareness" with a series of storms forecast for later in the week.
“*Any resident displaced by the evacuation may return home at 1:00 pm; 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,” said the announcement, issued by Sheriff Kory Honea.
The pressing problem is with the emergency spillway, which lets excess water out when the lake level gets too high, at 901 feet. On Tuesday, Lake Oroville was down to 887 feet, 37 feet above where officials want it to be. Workers rushed to shore up the emergency spillway with boulders and concrete. They dropped huge white bags stuffed with rocks, as well as chunks of concrete. Dump trucks and cement mixers shuttled material.
Bill Croyle, the state's acting director of water resources, believes with the work done to increase outflow and less rainfall expected than in previous storms, the emergency spillway won't be needed. "We have addressed the issue ... but will continue to increase our mitigation measures to increase its ability to handle a high-water event," Croyle told reporters.
In the meantime, helicopters have been dropping bags of rocks into the gouged portion in an effort to plug the hole. "Our crews are working around the clock, 24/7, to try to get as much rock as possible onto the damaged spillway before the next storms come," Cal Fire spokesman Josh Janssen said. "We are feeling positive," said Al Duncan, spokesman for the response team.
#LakeOroville level now 889 ft., 12 feet bellow spill level, expected to drain faster. Choppers dropping cement chunks in spillway breech. pic.twitter.com/iYkMD07D7p
— Paul Vercammen (@pvercammencnn) February 14, 2017
Janssen said the lake level has been dropping about a foot every three hours -- and that rate could improve. "Lakes are shaped like funnels, so we could see the water level start to drop faster," he said.
Oroville is not in the clear just yet.
The next wave of rainfall will come overnight Wednesday into Thursday. A series of storms will follow and last through the weekend.
Another storm will impact California this week including #OrovilleDam. Track the storm here: https://t.co/3mItvZAP0F pic.twitter.com/WNAIosTc9F
— CNN Weather Center (@CNNweather) February 13, 2017
Rainfall over the next week could total 5 to 12 inches and will likely push hundreds of billions of gallons of water back into Lake Oroville, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said.
Meanwhile, downtown Oroville remained a ghost town after the evacuations. Stores sat dark and empty with sandbags stacked in front of doors. Empty gas stations had yellow tape ringed around the pump to indicate there was no more fuel. All schools in Sutter and Yuba counties have been closed. Affected schools in Butte County are shut until Friday.
RaeLynn Jones and her fiance, who had fled their Oroville apartment near Feather River on Sunday, came back to their home Monday to pick up more of their items. She noted that her building was unscathed, but at Feather River, the water level nearly reached the treetops. Surrounding playgrounds, gazebos and sports fields were completely submerged, she said.
Jones is staying at her fiance's home, which is on higher ground. Nine people and three dogs are sharing the house where they're riding out the evacuation order. With everything closed, they're eating whatever is left in the kitchen and snacks from the gas station. For now, all they can do is wait.
* * *
California Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday that the state is "doing everything we can to get this dam in shape so (evacuees) can return and live safely without fear." Brown said he had requested federal response aid. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump "has been keeping a close eye on the Oroville Dam situation in California." He did not say whether Trump has been in touch with Brown, but said the administration has been communicating with Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa and other state officials.
"The situation is a textbook example of why we need to pursue major infrastructure package in Congress. Dams, bridges, roads and all ports around the country have fallen into disrepair. ... We will be working alongside with FEMA and appropriate government entities to make sure that we are doing everything we can to attend to this."
The mandatory evacuation order for Oroville, California, residents was reduced to an evacuation warning on Tuesday, February 14, allowing thousands of people to return home.The town was evacuated on Sunday over worries the Oroville Dam’s spillway could collapse from erosion. Since then, workers...