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Water Flow Over Emergency Spillway Ceases, Evacuations Still In Effect

@CA_DWR / Twitter

@CA_DWR / Twitter

UPDATE 11:00 P.M.: Gov. Jerry Brown has issued an emergency order in response to the situation at the Oroville Dam.

According to a statement from the governor's office, "The order activates the State Operations Center in Mather, California to its highest level and is coordinating with personnel at the Incident Command Post in Oroville, California and with other local, state and federal emergency response officials to address all emergency management, evacuation and mutual aid needs."

UPDATE 10:00 P.M.: California Department of Water Resources officials are now saying water has stopped flowing out of the emergency spillway as lake levels continue to drop. 

Water is currently being released down the main spillway at 100,000 cubic feet per second. Officials say they hope to push out over 1 million acre-feet of water in the coming week, before another storm system arrives.

The dam is considered at 100 percent capacity at 901 feet. During the weekend and as the lake's levels rose, water was released through the structure's emergency spillway. But officials grew concerned about erosion. When water levels surpassed capacity Sunday afternoon, that's when officials issued the evacuation order. As of 10 p.m. Sunday, water levels began decreasing.

Earlier in the evening, helicopters delivered rocks and sandbags to shore up the auxiliary spillway. 

Evacuation orders are still in effect.

UPDATE 8:50 P.M.:  At least 180,000 people have been asked to evacuate over concerns California's Oroville Dam's emergency spillway could fail.  

The cities of Oroville, Gridley, Live Oak, Marysville, Wheatland, Yuba City, Plumas Lake, and Olivehurst are all under evacuation orders.

Butte County Sheriff Kony Honea says engineers with the State Water Resource Control Board informed him that the erosion on the emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam is not advancing as fast as they thought. He says they are trying to plug the hole by using helicopters to drop rocks into the crevasse. Honea says authorities issued an evacuation order to get people moving quickly to save lives in case "the worst-case scenario came into fruition."

There were worries about the emergency spillway giving way, meaning water would gush out faster into the Feather River. The emergency spillway was rated to handle 250,000 cubic feet per second, but it began to show weakness at a fraction of that. The flow was brought down to around 8,000 cubic feet this afternoon.

Doug Carlson with the Department of Water Resources says they're willing to destroy the bottom of the main spillway, where the problem started, to save the top of the main spillway.

The city of Sacramento released the following statement:

"The State Department of Water Resources says there appears to be no immediate threat to the Sacramento area. The Oroville area residents were asked to evacuate by Butte County out of an abundance of caution. However, the state is anticipating that the lake level will be below the auxiliary spillway before midnight.  If there was a compromise, it would not significantly impact Sacramento as the Sacramento River channel has sufficient capacity to accommodate increased flows."

Evacuation Centers:

Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico at 2357 Fair St. 

Neighborhood Church of Chico, 2801 Notre Dame Blvd. (no animals inside)

St. Johns Episcopal Church, 2341 Floral Ave., Chico (small animals accepted if leashed and crated)

Paradise Alliance Church (CMA), 6491 Clark Road (small animals accepted, RVs allowed in parking lot)

Elks Lodge (Paradise) 1100 Elks Lane, Paradise - (no small animals accepted, RVs allowed in parking lot)

Glenn CountyGlenn County Fairgrounds, 221 E. Yolo St. Orland, CA (accepting livestock, no small animals, 40 RV sites)

Colusa County Fairgrounds in Colusa at 1303 10th St.

Neighborhood Church in Chico at 2801 Notre Dame Blvd.

Alcouffe Community Center on Marysville Road, Oregon House

Glenn County Fairgrounds in Orland at 221 E. Yolo St.

Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley at 11228 McCourtney Road 

Placer County Fairgrounds in Roseville at 800 All America City Blvd.

Yolo County Fairgrounds in Woodland at 1250 East Gum Ave.

Sutter High School in Sutter at 2665 Acacia Ave. 

Alternate Locations for RVs:

Rolling Hils RV Park, Corning (10 spaces left, can take large animals at equestrian center)

School Closures in Butte County:

Bangor Union Elementary School District, Biggs Unified School District, Durham Unified School District, Feather Falls Union Elementary School District, Golden Feather Union Elementary School District, Gridley Unified School District, Manzanita Elementary School District, Oroville Elementary School District, Oroville Union High School District, Palermo Union Elementary School District, Pioneer Union Elementary School District and Thermalito Union Elementary School District in Butte County.  All of Butte County Office of Education offices and schools in Oroville will also be closed.

Butte College will be closed tomorrow.

Road Closures:

Southbound 149 at 99, Southbound 70 at 149, Eastbound 162 at 99, & 149 at Openshaw Road are all closed. 

UPDATE 7:00 P.M.: California emergency officials are evacuating communities downstream from the nation’s tallest dam, Lake Oroville.

CapRadio's Bob Moffitt Evacuation Update:

Emergency officials say the emergency spillway at Oroville Dam is predicted to fail and calling for downstream communities to evacuate immediately. 

This includes communities of Oroville, Gridley, Live Oak, Yuba City, Marysville and Wheatland.

CapRadio's Senior Producer Drew Sandsor talks to Chris Orrock

Chris Orrock is with the California Department of Water Resources.

“There was a belief that there was enough of erosion in the auxiliary spillway that there we could see a structural failure," says Orock. "I was told that would happen within an hour of 4:30pm, we’re now past 6:00. I’m not saying we’re past that point - it could happen. However, we are evacuating as much water out of the reservoir as quickly as possible.”

DWR doubled the flow down its main spillway to avoid further erosion, increasing it from 55,000 cubic feet per second to 100,000. The next several hours will be crucial in determining whether the concrete structure at the head of the auxiliary spillway remains intact and prevents larger, uncontrolled flows.

Cal Fire says there is a plan in place which would plug that hole, that would include using helicopters to drop bags of rock to prevent further erosion.

UPDATE 5:55 P.M.: Officials have ordered residents near the Oroville Dam in Northern California to evacuate the area, saying a "hazardous situation is developing" after an emergency spillway severely eroded.

An evacuation order is issued to all of Yuba County on the valley floor, according to Yuba County Office of Emergency Services. Officials say the auxiliary spillway is close to failing.

According to California Department of Water Resources, residents of Oroville should evacuate in a northward direction, toward Chico. Others are urged to only take routes to the east, south, or west. Do not travel north.

ORIGINAL: (AP) - Officials have ordered residents near the Oroville Dam in Northern California to evacuate the area, saying a "hazardous situation is developing" after an emergency spillway severely eroded.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office says the emergency spillway could fail within an hour unleashing uncontrolled flood waters from Lake Oroville.

The department says people in downstream areas need to leave the area immediately.

It says residents of Oroville, a town of 16,000 people, should head north toward Chico and that other cities should follow orders from their local law enforcement agencies.

Water began flowing over the emergency spillway at dam on Saturday for the first time in its nearly 50-year history after heavy rainfall.

 Oroville DamEmergency Spillway

Amy Quinton

Former Environment Reporter

Amy came to Sacramento from New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) where she was Environment Reporter. Amy has also reported for NPR member stations WFAE in Charlotte, WAMU in Washington D.C. and American Public Media's "Marketplace."  Read Full Bio 

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