Emergency spillway at Oroville Dam could fail, evacuations ordered
PUBLISHED Sun, February 12, 2017 - 8:24pm EST
Emergency spillway on Saturday (Credit: California DWR)
The emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam in California is at risk of imminent failure as a result of severe erosion, prompting the evacuation of low-level areas from Oroville to Gridley, county and state officials say. (more)
The emergency spillway - officially called the auxiliary spillway - had never been used until a crater appeared in the dam's normal spillway on Tuesday. The situation was described as "stable" as recently as 11 a.m. PT on Sunday.
Just before 4:30 p.m. PT, the Butte County Sheriff's Office said operation of the emergency spillway had led to severe erosion that could lead to a failure of the structure. "Immediate evacuation from the low levels of Oroville and areas downstream is ordered," it said in a warning to residents.
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) said the emergency spillway could fail by 6 p.m., which would result in an uncontrolled release of flood waters from Lake Oroville. It would not mean a failure of the dam as a whole, but it could still result in a significant release of water.
As a result, evacuations have been ordered for low level areas around the Feather River from Oroville to Gridley. "Low level areas around the Feather River will experience rapid river rises," the National Weather Service said in a flash flood warning. "Move to higher ground now. Act quickly to protect your life."
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