Crews working around the clock on damaged dam

Malcolm Fuller
February 16, 2017

On Tuesday, officials said the immediate danger had passed, and allowed almost 200,000 residents to go home after evacuation orders scattered them for almost two days.

A series of new storms is expected to approach Northern California and the Oroville area within the next 24 hours.

KCRA reports water levels at the lake dropped Monday morning, stopping water from spilling over the auxiliary spillway. Normal flows down the main spillway are about 55,000 cubic feet per second. Jerry Brown issued an emergency order to help response teams, and U.S. Representative Doug LaMalfa said he was communicating with the White House about the crisis. "But they didn't, and there are probably multiple reasons why", with cost a crucial one.

Data from the Department of Water Resources shows Shasta Dam discharges began to be sharply increased on February 10 and have increased substantially every day since that. The concern is that the storms could dump more water than anticipated. The storm predicted for Thursday and Friday is expected to be colder, which means more mountain snow and less rain flowing into the reservoir.

Mr Croyle said work crews had made "great progress" cementing thousands of tonnes of rocks into holes in the spillways.

Large concrete patches the size of football fields had washed out of the channel, but dam operators were forced to continue using it, due to rising water levels that reached the top of the 770-foot high dam. DWR spokesperson Chris Orrock said right now they're focusing on the current incident. Besides, they said, it's unlikely the spillway would ever be needed anyway.

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The sheriff's department in a Facebook statement said it had reduced the order to a warning thanks to "lower lake levels, further inspections, ongoing work to shore up the Oroville dam emergency spillway and updated weather forecasts". At some point, the Department of Water Resources plans to cover the boulders and gravel with concrete, he said. It was unclear whether those issues played a role in the spillway's rupture last week.

At the time, a hole developed in the emergency spillway structure as water cascaded down the dirt ravine.

Officials defended the decision to suddenly call for mass evacuations on Sunday, just a few hours after saying the situation was stable, forcing families to rush to pack up and get out.

Residents must be prepared for rapid changes and the possibility of another evacuation order, Honea said in a press release.

Returning residents vowed to heed the sheriff's warning to remain vigilant.

"We're all coming back and pack and be ready this time", Remocal said.

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