After discovering a hole in Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway, officials said late Sunday that they will attempt to plug it using sandbags and rocks. But, as the LA Times notes, they stressed the situation remains dangerous and urged thousands of residents downstream to evacuate to higher ground. Video from television helicopters Sunday evening showed water flowing into a parking lot next to the dam, with large flows going down both the damaged main spillway and the emergency spillway.
They also showed lines of cars getting out of downtown Oroville. An evacuation center was set up at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico.
Officials feared a failure of the emergency spillway could cause huge amounts of water to flow into the Feather River, which runs through downtown Oroville, and other waterways. The result could be flooding and levee failures for miles south of the dam, depending on how much water is released.
So to limit the potential damage and flooding, the primary plan of action currently in place is to plug a hole in the emergency spillway, including using helicopters dropping bags of rock into the crevasse to prevent any further erosion. Here’s the loud, chaotic scene as the choppers prepare for the rock drop via @judywbrandt on Twitter.
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Finally, the reason for the scramble to fix the dam is because a new storm system is forecast for later this week put water officials on a race against time. Bill Croyle, the acting director of the state Department of Water Resources, said they planned to continue discharging flows at a rate of 100,000 cubic feet per second, with the hope of lowering the reservoir level by 50 feet.
The biggest concern was that a hillside that keeps water in Lake Oroville — California’s second largest reservoir — would suddenly crumble Sunday afternoon, threatening the lives of thousands of people by flooding communities downstream. With Lake Oroville filled to the brim, such a collapse could have caused a “30-foot wall of water coming out of the lake,” Cal-Fire incident commander Kevin Lawson said at a Sunday night press conference. Luckily, so far this scenario has not played out.
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