Engineers are racing to repair the structure before more rain falls later this week
On Sunday afternoon, the Butte County Sheriff’s Department took to Facebook to spread word residents of Oroville, California, that officials “are anticipating a failure of the Auxiliary Spillway at Oroville Dam within the next 60 minutes.” The heaviest rains the area had seen in years caused water levels to rise, putting an unanticipated strain on a structure that’s been considered a safety issue for the past 12 years.
Twenty-four hours later, 188,000 residents had been evacuated from nearby areas. Forty-eight hours later, the call to evacuate had been lifted following a conclusion that the risk of a breach is less than originally anticipated. Utilizing an emergency spillway, officials determined that the erosion wasn’t such that the main spillway was in jeopardy. However, the reprieve may be short-lived unless authorities can complete significant repairs before the end of the week, at which time anticipated rains could increase the burden on the eroded Oroville Dam.
If the work isn’t completed prior to the rains, residents could face another frantic evacuation like the one that took place Sunday night:
The most recent update says that water was being released from the dam at a “reasonable and sustainable” rate, which will serve to reduce the level of the lake and the stress put on the structure.