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Published: Thu, February 16, 2017
Entertainment | By Alexander Flowers

Thousands evacuated in Calif., as Oroville Dam threatens to flood

Thousands evacuated in Calif., as Oroville Dam threatens to flood

Emergency evacuation of Yuba City and areas in Sutton County was ordered on Sunday following a warning that the damaged Oroville Dam could burst. Authorities began using the emergency spillway after a 200-foot long, 30-foot-deep hole formed in the dam's primary relief valve last week, NBC Bay Area reported.

Lake Oroville is one of California's largest man-made lakes, and the dam is 335-metres tall.

Engineers anxious the fast-moving water could undercut the 1,730 foot concrete lip at the top of the emergency spillway, resulting in a collapse of the structure followed by an uncontrolled release of billions of gallons of water into residential areas.

Crews used helicopters to drop bags of rocks into the gouged portion of the emergency spillway, in an effort to plug the hole. While failure of the actual dam would be more catastrophic, a failure of the emergency spillway would also release a tremendous amount of water - a "30-foot-high wall", according to officials, that would flow downstream into Feather River communities.

Butte County Sheriff Kony Honea defended the decision to evacuate, saying the "dynamic" situation required a quick response.

"Once this storm system arrives, Lake Oroville's water levels will rise, potentially forcing the need to utilize the failing emergency spillway", Brown added. The dam has two spillways to release water out of the lake to prevent overflow.

Weeks of heavy rain had left Lake Oroville - the second largest reservoir in California - almost full, leaving rural communities along the Feather river in danger.

Escaped bobcat Ollie found on National Zoo property
The group had called off the search when they received information that Ollie had returned to zoo property on her own. Still, 13 nearby schools did cancel their outdoor recess Tuesday out of caution. "Then she came right back".

Officials are also releasing water from the dam in a bid to reduce the water levels as much as possible ahead of rainfall. The goal is to lower lake levels by 50 feet in anticipation of the rain, which could come as soon as Wednesday.

With the emergency evacuation orders in place due to the spillways, there are local schools that will be closed on Monday.

California Department of Water Resources officials say flows into the lake are just under 45,000 cubic feet per second.

Although both the normal spillway and the emergency spillway have suffered damage, Croyle insists the Oroville Dam is not in danger and is confident in the state of the infrastructure.

Evacuees have been ordered to head north towards Chico, where roads are jammed with traffic, hotels are full to capacity and Red Cross stations have been set up to deal with the influx of evacuees.

The Yuba County Office of Emergency Services asked residents in the valley floor, including Marysville, a city of 12,000 people, to evacuate and take routes to the east, south, or west and avoid traveling north toward Oroville. At 230m high, the structure, built between 1962 and 1968, is the tallest dam in the USA, topping the famed Hoover dam by more than 12m.

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