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16 February 2017, 01:09 | Muriel Sparks
Thousands forced to flee homes near California's Oroville Dam as spillway predicted to fail
As crews worked to shore up the emergency section, water was re-routed back into the original damaged spillway in an effort to drain the dam as much as possible before the storms arrived.
Officials have ordered residents near one of the nation's biggest dams to evacuate the area, saying a "hazardous situation is developing" after an emergency spillway severely eroded.
Water first began flowing over the emergency spillway on Saturday, Feb. 11, when the lake level exceeded 901 feet elevation above sea level.
Emergency evacuation of Yuba City and areas in Sutton County was ordered on Sunday following a warning that the damaged Oroville Dam could burst.
In the main spillway, which is lined, or paved, erosion has caused a hole nearly the size of a football field and at least 40 feet deep to form in the lower part of the channel.
Chris Orrock, a Department of Water Resources spokesman, said it appears the dam's main spillway has stopped crumbling even though it is being used for water releases. Though many people think the Hoover Dam on the border of Nevada and Arizona is the tallest in the country, that honour belongs to Oroville.
The 770 foot tall Oroville dam is located 150 miles north of San Francisco. Water from rain and snow rapidly flowed into the lake, causing it to rise to perilous levels, and sending water down the wooded hillside carrying murky debris into the Feather River below.
"The police came and told us to evacuate", said Kaysi Levias who was with her husband, Greg, at a gas station as they attempted to flee.
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Almost 200,000 residents in northern California were ordered to evacuate their homes Sunday as a dam threatened to overflow.
Evacuation orders were lifted on Tuesday afternoon due to lower lake levels, further inspections and ongoing work to shore up the Oroville Dam emergency spillway, the Butte County Sheriff said on Facebook.
After issuing the evacuation orders, authorities noted significant decreases in the water coming over the emergency spillway.
Asked about the 2005 warning, Bill Croyle, acting director of the Department of Water Resources, said he's not familiar with the conversations that happened then.
The dam filled to capacity for the first time in its 50-year-history following weeks of heavy rain. They hope to patch the hole before more rain falls in the region on Wednesday and Thursday.
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