Oroville Dam Emergency

Evacuations follow disaster, power cuts; ongoing fortification efforts

Damage to the Oroville Dam in northern California has cut over 800 MW of hydropower, initially causing roughly 188,000 people to evacuate and creating an extremely difficult fortification effort as officials and workers try to perform mass repairs amidst unpredictable weather conditions. The event echoes a growing concern over crumbling dams and the nation’s precarious infrastructure.

As of Thursday afternoon, water levels at Lake Oroville continued to drop, but state officials began reducing the outflow from Oroville Dam’s damaged main spillway in an effort to clear debris from the Feather River below, according to the Sacramento Bee. A major storm is forecast for the weekend.

By mid-morning Thursday, releases from the main spillway had dropped to about 95,000 cubic feet per second, multiple reports citing the Department of Water Resources said. The DWR’s website indicated releases would fall to about 80,000 cfs by later in the day.

Due to the level of Lake Oroville, damage to the dam’s main spillway, and erosion of the emergency spillway, Butte and many surrounding Counties initially issued mandatory evacuation orders on Sunday, February 12th. The following day, Yuba City announced that evacuation is strongly suggested, but not mandatory. Bearings manufacturer Kingsbury Inc.’s Yuba City plant was evacuated, per company statements on social media. As of Wednesday, evacuations were lifted as officials contended the dam could withstand the upcoming storm.

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