Panic ensues as dam evacuees grab what they can and flee

2017-02-14 11:27
The damaged spillway with eroded hillside in Oroville, California. Water will continue to flow over an emergency spillway at the US's tallest dam for another day or so, officials said. (William Croyle, California Department of Water Resources via AP)

The damaged spillway with eroded hillside in Oroville, California. Water will continue to flow over an emergency spillway at the US's tallest dam for another day or so, officials said. (William Croyle, California Department of Water Resources via AP)

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

Chico - Some grabbed pets and important papers. Others arrived at shelters with just the clothes on their backs.

Still others couldn't leave at all on Sunday when word came down that a damaged spillway at California's gigantic Oroville Dam might collapse and send a 10m wall of water rushing toward them.

"People were just panicking, honking and yelling at each other," Patrick Miner said.

He was trying to escape the small town of Live Oak in a four-car caravan with his wife, three sons, mother and stepfather when they learned the roads ahead were jammed with traffic. Low on gas, they decided to turn around and take their chances at home.

"I decided I'd rather be in the house and we can climb on the roof rather than be in the car if something happens," said Miner, a 38-year-old computer networking student.

He also feared that the tension he witnessed among those trying to get gas and leave town would boil over and turn dangerous. He said one neighbour with the same worry drove with a shotgun in his lap for protection.

"I just got nervous and decided to hunker down," he said. "It was pretty scary."

Others made it out of the danger zone and headed by the hundreds to shelters. They holed up there on Monday, waiting to hear when it might be safe to go home.

Although the threat seemed to ease as the water level behind the dam fell, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said it might not be safe to return until repairs are done to the crumbling emergency spillway that carries excess water. No estimated time was given.

"I have the clothes on my back. No insurance policies, no cash, no nothing," said Warren Neufeld of Oroville, who was in the town of Chico when the evacuation order came down.

Unable to return home, he found refuge in a Red Cross shelter at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, where he spent the night assembling cots and handing out pizzas.

Ken Huskey sat on one of those cots on Monday, smoking what he said was his first cigarette in 12 years.

"We had a rough night last night," he explained.

Red Cross shelter manager Pam Deditch said the fairgrounds was well-stocked with supplies but that some people left in such a rush that they left their medications behind.

Jodye Manley of Olivehurst was having dinner Sunday at her daughter's house in Sacramento when a city councilman tipped her that an evacuation order was coming.

She and her musician husband raced home in time to gather up their four dogs, three cats, his guitars and amplifiers, and their important papers, family photos and a few clothes. They stacked other valuables a meter off the floor and hoped for the best as they left.

"When we got to our trailer park, it was almost like a movie, like 'Independence Day,' and they were all running," said Manley, 57. "It was surreal to see and feel the panic because where we are situated, had that wall come down at all last night, it wouldn't have taken long to get to us.

Read more on:    us  |  flooding

Join the conversation! 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.

Inside News24


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.


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 network.


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.