Almost 200000 evacuate because of dam spillway damage

Lake Oroville courtesy of Associated Press Josh F.W. Cook

Interestingly, California had been experiencing a record-setting drought, but may now be facing a record-setting rain season with a potential for 228 percent times the average rainfall.

A section of Lake Oroville is seen almost dry on August 19, 2014, when it was at just 32 per cent of its total capacity.

Note: No data available for Oroville storage levels on February 3. Now officials fear the erosion could release flood waters downstream into Oroville town, home to 16,000 people, all of whom have been warned to leave their homes immediately. All of the remaining drought is in the southern half of the state, where some reservoirs and underground water supplies remain below normal, the Drought Monitor said. Water managers have said the dam itself is not in danger of bursting.

But the fast-moving water also started breaking down the emergency spillway causing it to overflow. Operation of the auxiliary spillway has lead to severe erosion that could lead to a failure of the structure.

"What we are working with is approximately a 30-foot (10 metre) wall of water coming out of the lake".

Evacuation orders and advisories began Sunday around 4 p.m., eventually encompassing Oroville, Yuba City and other communities along the Feather River Basin.

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As of Monday morning, water levels had dropped and officials were inspecting the emergency spillway. The goal is to lower lake levels by 50 feet in anticipation of the rain, which could come as soon as Wednesday. A list of evacuation centers can be found here. But with more rain expected later in the week, time was running short to fix the damage ahead of the storms.

The Mercury News, a local newspaper, reported that three environmental groups - the Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the South Yuba Citizens League - filed a motion with the federal government in 2005 as part of Oroville Dam's relicensing process, urging federal officials to bolster the dam's emergency spillway.

Sources: DWR, Google Earth, detail image courtesy of AFP Getty. "There is still a lot of unknowns", said Kony Honea, sheriff of Butte County where Lake Oroville is located.

"We didn't have the luxury of waiting to see if all was okay", said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, explaining that when he ordered the evacuations, officials believed the spillway might collapse within hours. By early Monday, numerous pumps at those gas stations had yellow tape across them, indicating they were out of gas.

The evacuation order was changed Tuesday to a "warning" evacuation, meaning people can return home but are asked to be prepared to evacuate again should the status change back to "immediate", officials said.

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