Los Angeles: Tens of thousands of people have been forced out of their homes in northern California as the tallest dam in the US was found to be damaged. There are fears that if breach gets bigger, it will inundate a large swath of territory affecting close to two hundred thousand people across the region.
Serpentine queues of vehicles and pickup trucks are lined up across the major thoroughfare close to the area where evacuation orders have been given. As many as 180,000 people across the region have been ordered to leave their homes as officials said both overflow channels at the Oroville Dam were damaged.
In the meantime latest reports suggest that though excess water has now stopped flowing, the evacuation order remains in place. The news was confirmed by Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.
The dam built on the Feather River, very close to city of Oroville, California, is as high as 770 feet. This makes it the tallest dam in the US. Oroville Dam impounds Lake Oroville, the second largest man-made lake in the state of California, capable of storing more than 3.5 million acre-feet of water.
Local residents are very fearful following the evacuation order as they have never faced such an emergency in the dam’s near 50-year history.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea in a statement emphasized that people should take the evacuation order seriously as it was not a drill and that there lies a real threat to people’s lives if they don’t heed the order.
In the meantime the California Department of Water Resources warned that the emergency spillway next to the dam was “predicted to fail”. California Fire Incident commander, Kevin Lawson, said officials stood by the decision to evacuate residents, rather than risk thousands of lives. He said if the situation was not dealt with they were looking at “a 30ft wall of water coming out of the lake”.
In the meantime a report by the Associated Press says, “The erosion at the head of the emergency spillway threatens to undermine the concrete weir and allow large, uncontrolled releases of water from Lake Oroville, the California Department of Water Resources said. Those potential flows could overwhelm the Feather River and other downstream waterways, channels and levees”.
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Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told media “”Unfortunately they (engineers) couldn’t advise me or tell me specifically how much time that would take so we had to make the very difficult and critical decision to initiate the evacuation of the Orville area and all locations south of that…We needed to get people moving quickly to save lives if the worst case scenario came into fruition.”