California prepares for catastrophe: Battle to stop a collapse at America’s tallest dam as 200,000 residents flee amid fears of a 100ft-deep flood that could stretch for 40 miles

California prepares for catastrophe: Battle to stop a collapse at America’s tallest dam as 200,000 residents flee amid fears of a 100ft-deep flood that could stretch for 40 miles

From DailyMail

  • Fears the Oroville Dam could collapse and unleash flooding which could leave towns 100 foot underwater 
  • Nearly 200,000 residents evacuated in Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties in Northern California amid fears
  • All 23,000 of the California National Guard have been put on standby to assist the situation and recovery
  • Federal and state officials rejected concerns that the dam would be under threat from rain 12-years ago 
  • Water levels reached 50-year high after rainfall and threatened citizens living near the massive Oroville Dam 
  • The extra water meant the dam’s emergency spillway was called into action for the first time in half a century
  • A gaping chasm in the main spillway has disrupted the flow of the water, which prompted the flooding fears

Officials have been inspecting the nation’s tallest dam since first night this morning in a desperate effort to stop a devastating 100-foot tsunami from being unleashed, as 200,000 people remain under evacuation orders across California despite water levels dropping over night.

Concerned authorities warned in the worst case scenario a complete structural breakdown at the emergency spillway of Oroville Dam would unleash a torrent of water that would engulf Oroville within an hour.

The ensuing flood from the 770-foot dam would catastrophically put the city of Oroville and several other low-lying communities along the Feather River under 100ft of water.

The potential disaster is the result of massive spikes in water levels as a result of snow and heavy rain after years of drought, and damage to the primary and emergency spillways at the dam. Officials first noticed a massive hole in the dam’s spillway last week.

Donald Trump is yet to comment on the potential disaster.

And amid the frantic evacuations, it emerged overnight federal and state officials and some of California’s largest water agencies rejected concerns 12 years ago about the precarious state the dam – which was built between 1962 and 1968.

This map shows the potential worst case scenario for what could happen if the waters are not controlled and the flood breaks through the dam. It would take about 12 hours for the water to reach Yuba City more than 40 miles away following the path of the Feather River
This map shows the potential worst case scenario for what could happen if the waters are not controlled and the flood breaks through the dam. It would take about 12 hours for the water to reach Yuba City more than 40 miles away following the path of the Feather River
Precarious situation: An aerial of the Oroville Dam reveals the dangerous flooding at the spillway that has left the area in imminent danger of a catastrophic flood 
Precarious situation: An aerial of the Oroville Dam reveals the dangerous flooding at the spillway that has left the area in imminent danger of a catastrophic flood

A massive hole is causing major erosion around the Oroville Dam in CaliforniaThe hole formed Tuesday and has continued to grow since then

A massive hole is causing major erosion around the Oroville Dam in California. The hole formed

Tuesday and has continued to grow since then


Lake water flows over the emergency spillway, bottom left, at Lake Oroville for the first time in the nearly 50-year history of the dam on Saturday
Lake water flows over the emergency spillway, bottom left, at Lake Oroville for the first time in the nearly 50-year history of the dam on Saturday
The water falling over the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway stopped as the lake level dropped on Sunday
The water falling over the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway stopped as the lake level dropped on Sunday

THE ANATOMY OF CATASTROPHE: WHAT HAS LED TO THE POTENTIAL DISASTER AT THE OROVILLE DAM

One of the key factors in the threat is the rapid rate at which water levels have risen. After years of severe drought in the region, heavy rain and snow have sent levels skyrocketing.

It is the first time that Lake Oroville, which lies 65 miles (105km) north of Sacramento, has been faced with such a potentially devastating emergency in the dam’s nearly half-century history.

The order for nearby residents to flee was issued after water levels climbed in the last week. The rise was compounded by the fact the dam’s main spillway, also known as an overflow channel, was found to be damaged.

As a result, the dam’s emergency spillway was called upon and activated for the first time since it was built in 1968, as flood waters rose ever higher.

But shocking, the secondary spillway was also found to be damaged.

In a statement posted on social media on Sunday afternoon, Mr Honea ordered residents to evacuate, repeating three times that it was “NOT a drill”.

The California Department of Water Resources warned that the emergency spillway next to the dam was ‘predicted to fail’.

The dangerous situation sparked the California National Guard to put out a notification to all 23,000 soldiers and airmen to be ready to deploy if needed.

The last time an alert for the entire California National Guard was issued was the 1992 riots.

And early on Monday morning, relieved officials said that water had stopped pouring over the dam’s emergency spillway after they essentially rose 50-feet over a few days.

They announced that although not nearly out of the woods, the situation had improved.

However, another storm is predicted to hit the area by Friday, putting more strain on the dam and potentially sparking a catastrophic failure.

On Sunday afternoon, Lake Oroville – one of the state’s largest man-made lakes – had water levels so high that an emergency spillway was used Saturday for the first time in almost 50 years.

The evacuation was ordered Sunday afternoon after engineers spotted a hole on the concrete lip of the secondary spillway for the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam and told authorities that it could fail within the hour.

‘I’m just shocked,’ said Greg Levias, who was evacuating with his wife, Kaysi, two boys and a dog.

What they couldn’t fit in their trunk they piled as high as they could in their downstairs Yuba City apartment and joined the line of traffic attempting to leave the city where they had moved just three weeks ago.

Panicked and angry residents sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic hours after the evacuation order was given.

Raj Gill was managing a Shell station where anxious motorists got gas and snacks while waiting for gridlocked traffic to clear.

His boss told him to close the station and flee himself, but he stayed open to feed a steady line of customers.

The area under threat: About 150 miles northeast of San Francisco, Lake Oroville - one of California's largest man-made lakes - had water levels so high that an emergency spillway was used Saturday for the first time in almost 50 years
The area under threat: About 150 miles northeast of San Francisco, Lake Oroville – one of California’s largest man-made lakes – had water levels so high that an emergency spillway was used Saturday for the first time in almost 50 years

This is not a drill: Nearly 200,000 people fled the area after authorities issued an emergency evacuation order 

‘You can’t even move,’ he said. ‘I’m trying to get out of here too. I’m worried about the flooding. I’ve seen the pictures – that’s a lot of water.’

A Red Cross spokeswoman said more than 500 people were at an evacuation center in Chino, California. The shelter had run out of blankets and cots, and a semi-tractor trailer with 1,000 more cots was stuck in the gridlock of traffic fleeing the potential flooding, said Red Cross shelter manager Pam Deditch.

A California Highway Patrol spokesman said they would have two planes out Monday to help with traffic control as well as search and rescue.

State Fire and Rescue Chief Kim Zagaris said at least 250 law enforcement officers from throughout the state are in the area or on their way to help with the evacuation.

Local Sikh leaders announced early on Monday morning they have thrown open temple doors across the area, and are offering food and shelter to all people who have been forced from their home



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