Thousands from Yuba, Butte, Sutter counties evacuated

‘Hazardous situation’ has developed with Oroville Dam emergency spillway

More than 180,000 people were evacuated Sunday afternoon after officials spotted severe erosion on the emergency spillway at Lake Oroville. Officials warned the emergency spillway was in danger of failing and could send a 30-foot wall of water into communities along the Feather River Basin.

“This damage could result in catastrophic failure of the auxiliary spillway,” the California Department of Water Resources said in a statement.

While water stopped spilling over the emergency spillway, officials are keeping the orders in place until crews can start repairing the erosion, and they can analyze the situation.

“It was a tough call to make, and it was the right call to make to protect the public,” DWR Director Bill Croyle said Sunday night.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency order Sunday night to “bolster the state’s response” at the emergency spillway.

“I’ve been in close contact with emergency personnel managing the situation in Oroville throughout the weekend and it’s clear the circumstances are complex and rapidly changing,” Brown said in a statement. “I want to thank local and state law enforcement for leading evacuation efforts and doing their part to keep residents safe. The state is directing all necessary personnel and resources to deal with this very serious situation.”

The evacuation orders went out around 4 p.m. after engineers spotted a hole that was eroding back toward the top of the spillway.

It’s unknown when evacuations will be lifted.


People living along the Feather River Basin in Butte, Yuba and Sutter counties were ordered to evacuate due to the danger posed by the spillway.

Low-lying areas of Oroville, Gridley and several communities downstream from Lake Oroville in Butte County were ordered to evacuate.

“A hazardous situation is developing with the Oroville Dam auxiliary spillway,” the Butte County Sheriff’s Office said on its Facebook page. “Operation of the auxiliary spillway has (led) to severe erosion that could lead to a failure of the structure. Failure of the auxiliary spillway structure will result in an uncontrolled release of flood waters from Lake Oroville.”

This is an evacuation order. Immediate evacuation from the low levels of Oroville and areas downstream is ordered….

Posted by Butte County Sheriff on Sonntag, 12. Februar 2017

The following cities in Yuba County are under evacuation orders, the sheriff’s office spokesperson Leslie Caqrbah said:

  • Marysville
  • Hallwood
  • Ollivehurst
  • Plumas Lake

Wheatland is now under a voluntary evacuation order, the county’s office of emergency services said.

In Sutter County, an immediate evacuation has been ordered for Live Oak, Nicolaus and all communities Feather River Yuba City basin, officials tweeted.

Yuba City is under an evacuation advisory, police said.

Residents are being asked to evacuate north, toward Chico. DWR said residents in other cities should follow the orders of local law enforcement.

EMERGENCY EVACUATION ORDER ISSUED: Officials are anticipating a failure of the Auxiliary Spillway at Oroville Dam within…

Posted by California Department of Water Resources on Sonntag, 12. Februar 2017

Butte County Sheriff Koney Honea said there have been no reports of looting or shootings during the evacuations, dispelling rumors of these crimes in the region.

An evacuation shelter has been set up at:

  • Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico at 2357 Fair Street (FULL)
  • Neighborhood Church in Chico at 2801 Notre Dame
  • Alcouffe Community Center on Marysville Road, Oregon House
  • Glenn County Fairgrounds in Orland at 221 E. Yolo Street
  • Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley at 11228 McCourney Road
  • Beale Air Force Base, about 8 miles east of Marysville; people can enter at either Doolittle Gate, off of Hammonton Smartsville Road, or Schneider Gate, North Beale Road
  • Sutter High School in Sutter at 2665 Acacia Avenue
  • Yolo County Fairgrounds in Woodland at 1250 E. Gum Street

A large animal shelter is open in Oroville at Camelot Equestrian Park, located at 1985 Clark Road. Also, Cattleman’s Livestock Market in Galt has room for large animals.

California Highway Patrol opened southbound lanes of Hwy. 70 to northbound traffic, Butte County officials said.

Butte County officials also said Nelson Avenue is closed at Table Mountain Boulevard due to ongoing road construction.

The Colusa Unified School District is cancelling school for Monday. While Colusa may not be directly in danger, the schools will be closed “out of an abundance of caution,” Superintendent Dwayne Newman said.

The following hotels in Chico told Butte County officials they are full:

  • America’s Best
  • Courtyard Marriott
  • Haven Inn
  • Heritage Inn
  • Motel 6
  • Ramada
  • Oxford Suites
  • Quality Inn
  • Regency Inn

Anyone with questions can call the public information line at 530-872-5951.

DWR said there was severe erosion on the emergency spillway, not the main spillway which was damaged by concrete erosion on Tuesday.

The erosion at the head of the emergency spillway threatens to undermine the concrete weir and allow large, uncontrolled releases of water from Lake Oroville, DWR said. Those potential flows could overwhelm the Feather River and other downstream waterways, channels and levees.

A California Office of Emergency Services spokesperson said the potential failure of Lake Oroville’s emergency spillway is “potentially catastrophic.”

As of 9 p.m., Lake Oroville’s water level was at 900.7 feet — the lake is 901 feet deep. The water flow over the emergency spillway has ended, which is taking pressure off of it.

“The lower (the water level) gets, the less pressure (on the spillway) there will be,” KCRA meteorologist Mark Finan said.

Honea said engineers with the Department of Water Resources informed him shortly after 6 p.m. that the erosion on the emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam was not advancing as fast as they thought.


“Unfortunately, they couldn’t advise me or tell me specifically how much time that would take so we had to make the very difficult and critical decision to initiate the evacuation of the Orville area and all locations south of that,” he said. “We needed to get people moving quickly to save lives if the worst case scenario came into fruition.”

Honea said there is a plan to plug the hole by using helicopters to drop rocks into the crevasse.

Crews plan to use helicopters to drop rocks into erosion scar in the emergency spillway to prevent further damage, DWR said. Cal Fire said engines, helicopters and bulldozers from across the state are headed to Oroville to help.


Crews are loading up dozens of bags of rocks for helicopters to drop on the #Orovilledam auxiliary spillway. The plan is to place them on the damaged area to try and strengthen it. Here's what we know so far:

Posted by Tom Miller on Sonntag, 12. Februar 2017

Crews were filling containers with rocks Sunday night. Then first thing Monday morning, helicopters will drop the packages into the erosion scar in the emergency spillway — and hopefully, fortifying the weir.

DWR officials also increased water releases from the main spillway to 100,000 cfs so that no more water will come down the emergency spillway. The main spillway can handle water flows up to 250,000 cfs.

DWR said the increased flows will further damage the main spillway.

Water began flowing over the emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam in Northern California on Saturday for the first time in its nearly 50-year history after heavy rainfall. Officials earlier Sunday stressed the dam itself was structurally sound and said there was no threat to the public.

Unexpected erosion chewed through the main spillway during heavy rain earlier this week, sending chunks of concrete flying and creating a 200-foot-long, 30-foot-deep hole that continues growing. Engineers don’t know what caused the cave-in, but Chris Orrock, a DWR spokesperson, said it appears the dam’s main spillway has stopped crumbling even though it’s being used for water releases.

The lake is a central piece of California’s government-run water delivery network, supplying water for agriculture in the Central Valley and residents and businesses in Southern California.


The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has activated the State Operations Center to help monitor the situation and assist Butte County officials.

The Sacramento Fire Department said the emergency spillway’s failure could have downstream affects in Sacramento. Water levels could rise and go over levees in some areas, causing flooding.

The San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services is working with levee agencies to protect communities, adding, “There is not immediate threat.”

Roseville is not under evacuation orders, police tweeted.

The city of Lincoln is not expected to be impacted by the water releases at Lake Oroville, city officials tweeted.

The city of Davis is working closely with Yolo County as officials monitor the situation in Oroville, but there have been no immediate issues identified at this time, officials posted on Facebook.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg tweeted that if the spillway fails, the city would not be significantly impacted, adding that “our flood system/channels have sufficient capacity to accommodate increased flows.”

Stay with KCRA 3 for the latest.

LIVE: LiveCopter 3 is over Lake Oroville where the emergency spillway is expected to fail due to erosion. Here's what we know so far:

Posted by KCRA 3 on Sonntag, 12. Februar 2017


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