Over 130,000 residents below California’s Oroville Dam have been forced to evacuate their homes after damage to an emergency spillway caused a “hazardous situation” to form that could result in an “uncontrolled release of flood waters from Lake Oroville,” the National Weather Service announced.
Authorities announced the mass evacuations after workers attempted for a week to prevent the flooding by releasing water levels through emergency spillways. However, a hole was detected in one of the emergency spillways, prompting authorities to raise the alarm.
Now, officials are desperately trying to reduce water levels at the dam so that they can gain access to the emergency spillway and carry out repairs. If the system fails completely, huge amounts of water could flow into the Feather River – which runs directly into downtown Oroville – and other nearby waterways for miles south of the dam.
As of Sunday evening, water levels are still below flood stage and evacuations are underway for Oroville and the surrounding area. Swift-water rescue teams from fire departments across California have been dispatched to help any fleeing residents who get swept up in a potential flood.
Authorities have assured that the Oroville Dam itself is not compromised at all. A hole in the main spillway has been exclusively blamed for the incident, damage that could cost between $100 million and $200 million to repair.
Roadways were jammed with evacuees in the hours after the emergency was announced as people scrambled to get to higher ground. Evacuation centers have been set up in Chico, which is situated northeast of Oroville along Highway 70.