Oroville Dam: Tens of thousands evacuated in California as spillway threatens to flood

Oroville Dam: Tens of thousands evacuated in California as spillway threatens to flood
Source: AP
Source: AP

Tens of thousands of people received orders to evacuate their Northern California homes on Sunday after a leak in the Oroville Dam spillway threatened to flood nearby towns.

The spillway exists to contain overflow from the dam, which is the second-largest reservoir in the state, according to the Los Angeles Times. The leak poses the risk of floodwaters surging downhill into the Feather River and potentially overwhelming Oroville and its surrounding towns.

Water flows from the Oroville Dam's main spillway on Feb. 13, 2017.
Source: 
Rich Pedroncelli/AP

According to CNN, the danger arose after a heavy winter rainfall in the northern part of California filled Lake Oroville to the brim. And although the dam has two spillways — one primary and one emergency — to protect against flooding, both face major structural issues.

The primary spillway has been damaged by erosion, which has only gotten worse over the past several days. And, as it turns out, the emergency spillway has too — which, CNN notes, is particularly unlucky, since it has never been needed in the 48 years of its existence until now.

California officials learned of the emergency spillway's damage around 3 p.m. Sunday, just as water began sloshing into it. Evacuation orders began cropping up shortly afterward, warning that a "hazardous situation" was developing that could "result in an uncontrolled release of flood waters from Lake Oroville."

"There was significant concern that [the hole] would compromise the integrity of the spillway, resulting in a substantial release of water," Butte County Sheriff Kory L. Honea told the Los Angeles. Times. "We had to make a very critical and difficult decision to initiate the evacuation of the Oroville area." 

California Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement that the circumstances surrounding the dam were "complex and changing."

"I want to thank local and state law enforcement for leading evacuation efforts and doing their part to keep residents safe," he said. "The state is directing all necessary personnel and resources to deal with this very serious situation." 

According to CNN, officials will continue to monitor the dam's structural integrity into Monday. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Brianna Provenzano

Brianna is a staff writer at Mic, covering breaking news. Send tips/inquiries to brianna@mic.com.

MORE FROM

President Donald Trump turns Boy Scout Jamboree into campaign rally

The president discussed health care, Hillary Clinton, Obama, big yachts and more to 40,000 Boy Scouts and volunteers

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Driver charged with human trafficking after 30-40 people found locked in fatally hot tractor-trailer

The charge against James Matthew Bradley, the alleged driver of the vehicle, could carry a punishment as severe as the death penalty.

Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight to continue treatment for terminally ill son

The parents have withdrawn their request for Charlie to receive treatment in the U.S.

10th person dies after 38 found locked in sweltering tractor-trailer outside Texas Walmart

8 were found dead at the scene; 2 more died after being rushed to the hospital in critical or serious condition.

Dozens killed in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

President Donald Trump turns Boy Scout Jamboree into campaign rally

The president discussed health care, Hillary Clinton, Obama, big yachts and more to 40,000 Boy Scouts and volunteers

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Driver charged with human trafficking after 30-40 people found locked in fatally hot tractor-trailer

The charge against James Matthew Bradley, the alleged driver of the vehicle, could carry a punishment as severe as the death penalty.

Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight to continue treatment for terminally ill son

The parents have withdrawn their request for Charlie to receive treatment in the U.S.

10th person dies after 38 found locked in sweltering tractor-trailer outside Texas Walmart

8 were found dead at the scene; 2 more died after being rushed to the hospital in critical or serious condition.

Dozens killed in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.