Officials in Northern California ordered nearly 200,000 people to evacuate to safer ground on Sunday as the country’s tallest dam threatened to release uncontrolled floodwaters downstream. Motorists jammed highways as thousands of residents rushed to flee the area downstream from the Oroville Dam,…
Officials in Northern California ordered nearly 200,000 people to evacuate to safer ground on Sunday as the country’s tallest dam threatened to release uncontrolled floodwaters downstream.
Motorists jammed highways as thousands of residents rushed to flee the area downstream from the Oroville Dam, about 150 miles northeast of San Francisco, after authorities warned that the emergency spillway could fail, the National Weather Service.
Hundreds of cars lined up on Highway 99, creating a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam as people streamed north, the Associated Press said.
I don’t know what they are doing, but we aren’t even moving. This is pretty bad. #OrovilleSpillway #OrovilleDam pic.twitter.com/bvhtm3aY8A
Lake Oroville, one of California’s largest man-made lakes, has been swollen by more than a month of heavy rains. Water began topping the emergency spillway on the 770-foot-tall dam, the nation’s tallest, on Saturday, causing erosion damage that could lead to a surge of water being released, officials said.
Officials from California’s Department of Water Resources said they planned to use helicopters to drop rocks to fill in the gouge in the spillway.
Residents of Oroville, Gridley, Live Oak, Marysville, Wheatland, Yuba City, Plumas Lake, and Olivehurst were all ordered to evacuate immediately, authorities said.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said officials made the decision to nearly double the volume of water being released from the dam to 100,000 cubic feet per second to drain the lake quickly and stop erosion at the top of the auxiliary spillway.
“Hopefully, that will release pressure on the emergency spillway and they’ll find a repair to prevent a complete failure,” Honea said on Sunday. “[The] situation is dynamic and could change anytime. “
A video posted by K Newton (@fignorcal) on Feb 11, 2017 at 7:48pm PST
Oroville Mayor Linda Dahlmeier told ABC News the lake had been lowered to 2 feet below the top of the emergency spillway thanks to the increased volume of water being released through the dam’s main spillway.
The lake level is currently being lowered at a rate of about 4 inches per hour, the mayor said, adding that the erosion area has stopped progressing and stabilized.
California Governer Jerry Brown issued an emergency order in response to the situation.
“The state is directing all necessary personnel and resources to deal with this very serious situation,” Brown said in a statement on Sunday.
In addition, the state’s National Guard said it would provide eight helicopters to assist in reconstructing the emergency spillway.
The helicopters, along with two airplanes, will also be available for search and rescue on Monday near the Oroville Dam, California National Guard Adjunct General David Baldwin said at a news conference late Sunday.
He added that the California National Guard put out a notification to all 23,000 soldiers and airmen to be ready to deploy if needed.
Baldwin says the last time an alert like Sunday’s was issued for the entire California National Guard was the 1992 Los Angeles riots .
This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.