Fears remain after evacuation lifted over US dam scare

2017-02-16 06:12
Repair crews work to repair the Oroville Dam's emergency spillway.  (Rich Pedroncelli, AP)

Repair crews work to repair the Oroville Dam's emergency spillway. (Rich Pedroncelli, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Oroville - The stress of evacuation and an uncertain future were enough for Donald Azevedo and his family to opt to stay a few more nights in an emergency shelter rather than risk having to do it all again.

The family was among the nearly 200 000 Californians who live downstream from the country's tallest dam who were told they could return home but warned they may have to flee again if repairs made to the battered Oroville Dam spillways don't hold.

The fixes could be put to their first test later this week with the first of a series of small storms forecast for the region expected to reach the area on Wednesday night.

Garbage bag

"There is the prospect that we could issue another evacuation order if the situation changes and the risk increases," said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, telling residents they could return home but to remain vigilant.

That's why Azevedo wasn't budging yet.

"My plan is to stay here," said Azevedo, who evacuated from Marysville with his wife, Tasha, their four Chihuahuas and more than 30 relatives.

"I'm not trying to risk traffic, being stuck in floods. I'm safe where I'm at," Azevedo said.

Many other evacuees, such as Oroville resident Margaret Johnston, couldn't wait to get back home.

"You don't appreciate home until it's taken away from you," said Johnston, 69, who spent the last two nights sheltering at a church in Chico, California. As she packed the blankets, pillows and clothing she had hastily thrown into a black garbage bag, she reflected on the mad rush to leave, the chaos, confusion and bottleneck traffic on the drive out. "It was just frustrating. Very frustrating."

Residents living below the Oroville Dam were suddenly ordered to evacuate on Sunday afternoon after authorities had assured them for nearly a week that the dam was sound despite a gaping and growing hole found in the structure's main spillway. The order came after authorities feared an earthen emergency spillway used when the lake behind the dam overflows its capacity appeared ready to fail because of erosion on Sunday.

Two days after issuing the evacuation order, officials lifted it but uncertainty remained.

Snowfall melts

Over the weekend, the swollen lake spilled down the unpaved emergency spillway for nearly 40 hours, leaving it badly eroded. The problem occurred six days after engineers discovered a growing hole in the dam's main concrete spillway.

State and federal officials ignored calls in 2005 from environmental groups to armour the earthen spillway in concrete to prevent erosion. Federal regulators concluded the earthen spillway could handle a large amount of overflow after water agencies that would have had to pay for the upgrade argued it was unnecessary.

Others fear the real test is still to come in the weeks ahead when a record amount of snowfall melts in nearby mountains.



Read more on:    us

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/World
 

WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…

What is at first an exciting tummy-turning adventure stunt, quickly turns into a scarily bad idea caught on camera. Take a look:

 
 

You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Should you date your co-worker?
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.