Crews race to fix California dam before more rain falls

"I've seen the pictures - that's a lot of water".

California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers checking on abandoned properties following the evacuation of almost 200,000 people this week were surprised to find animals, including kangaroos, mini deer and zebras. "Every time they said something, they turned around and said something different".

February 14: Sheriff Honea reduced the immediate evacuation order to an evacuation warning at a press conference. The problem occurred six days after engineers discovered a growing hole in the dam's main concrete spillway.

"That solution worked to reduce the threat", Bill Croyle, the acting director of the California Department of Water Resources, told a press conference on 13 February.

Chaos ensued as anxious residents rushed to pack up their families and abandon several communities in Butte, Yuba and Sutter counties.

The hillside was created to handle the "probable maximum flood", and annual dam inspections include a review of the spillway's structural integrity, according to a May 2006 filing by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and other water agencies in the state that could have been in line to help pay for the upgrades to the dam.

Over the weekend, water began spilling down the unpaved emergency spillway - for the first time in the dam's 50-year history - for almost 40 hours.

Oroville has become a ghost town, while footage shared on Twitter shows flooding in a park along Feather River, downstream from the Dam.

To avert more erosion at the top of the emergency spillway, the DWR had doubled the flow down the dam's main spillway, so as to lower the water level in the reservoir more rapidly and stop water from flowing over the emergency spillway, and tried to reinforce the emergency spillway. Overflow in the spillway began Saturday morning and the erosion appeared to be spreading upward toward the structure.

Helicopters are dropping bags of gravel and boulders to shore up the damaged spillways.

Gov. Jerry Brown said late Tuesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved his request for federal assistance with the Oroville dam situation.

"We don't have details on the repairs, but they put cement into the cracks and troweled it over", Bea said. People lined up early for Dutch Brothers Coffee, and employee Jacob Thornton says he's happy to be back at work.

The California Department of Water Resources said Tuesday night the Oroville Dam's water levels continued to decrease but it didn't say by how much.

The lake is a central piece of California's government-run water delivery network, supplying water for agriculture in the Central Valley and residents and businesses in Southern California.

  • Larry Hoffman