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Oroville Residents Frustrated Over Chaos During Dam Evacuations

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Jace Lawson, 1, of Oroville, Calif., bottom, sleeps as people behind wait for a meal at a shelter for evacuees from city's surrounding the Oroville Dam, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Chico, Calif.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Marc Albert l North State Public Radio

Frustration and tales of harrowing escape dominated a public forum held in the aftermath of the Oroville Dam evacuations on Thursday.

People spoke of chaos during the emergency, with jammed phone lines, evacuation routes leading through flood zones and the elderly and disabled left behind.

Residents like Larry Teague singled out the State Department of Water Resources.

“They sell the water, they decide the height of that lake," Teague said. "And greed got us here. Because they want that water level right at the very top.”

While local officials, including Sheriff Kory Honea, received praise, more than one speaker said emergency systems failed. Pamela Alley is a volunteer with the Butte County Public Safety Scanner.

“I was signed up for every notification service there was," said Alley. "I got nothing. No reverse 911. No text notifications. Not even my neighbors let me know.”

A Butte County supervisor says the forum, held at a local Veterans of Foreign Wars hall, would help the community vent and heal. No Department of Water Resources representatives appeared to attend.

County leaders say they'll seek redress and reimbursement from the state government, possibly through legal action. A second forum is planned for Saturday at noon.

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