Oroville, California: The mass evacuation in northern California due to damage to Oroville Dam has left more than 200,000 people scurrying for cover. They are heading to unknown destinations, leaving their hearth and home, unsure whether they will find their homes standing when they eventually come back.
Official data suggest that around 200,000 people from Butte, Yuba and Sutter counties packed everything that they could and left their homes. They were ordered to evacuate as soon as possible. Not taking any chances, the officials repeatedly told the residents of the area that it was not a mock exercise.
The evacuation was necessitated as a massive crevasse was formed in a spillway at Northern California’s Oroville Dam. The same area where water is threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and several towns nearby had long been in drought until this year when heavy rain and snow bombarded the state.
Officials have said they decided the evacuation for residents as the last resort. 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”.
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In the meantime 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.”
A senior official for the California department of Water Resources said that oroville dam itself was “sound” and structurally separate from the auxiliary spillway. 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.