Villages of the Dam: Homes and businesses beneath California’s Oroville Dam lie abandoned underwater – as it’s revealed officials were warned about the crumbling structure TWELVE YEARS ago
- The Oroville Dam could collapse if 50 feet of water is not removed before storms arrive on Wednesday
- President Trump is being urged to declare it an emergency, as towns risk being drowned under 100ft of water
- He has yet to confirm the $162m in aid, or make any public statement on the potentially catastrophic situation
- Officials ignored warning 12 years ago. Gov Jerry Brown didn’t earmark funds in budget proposal this month
- Nearly 200,000 residents evacuated in Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties in Northern California amid fears
- The average annual rainfall is about 31 inches, but since October, the area has seen 25 inches of rain
- All 23,000 of the California National Guard have been put on standby to assist the situation and recovery
- Water levels reached 50-year high after rainfall and threatened citizens living near the massive Oroville Dam
- The Oroville dam is made up of two spillways that siphon water out of the lake of the same name
- The main spillway has a 250-foot wide and 40-foot deep chasm that has affected drainage
- The emergency spillway is a wooded embankment and was used for the first time in history on Saturday
- As of 8am on Monday Lake Oroville had dropped to 897.2 feet, which is about 4 feet below capacity
Eerie images of drowned buildings and ghost towns have emerged from the area below California‘s crumbling Oroville Dam after hundreds of thousands were ordered to evacuate.
And it might have been averted had federal officials and water agencies not ignored warnings 12 years ago that the 49-year-old structure was at risk of collapsing.
It also appears that repairs on the massive dam – which was left falling apart after a surprise burst of heavy rainfall – were not earmarked in Governor Jerry Brown’s $100 billion list of key infrastructure projects this month.
The rainfall that is expected Wednesday could pour into a gaping 250ft chasm in the concrete spillway, causing a collapse and unleashing a 30ft ‘tsunami’ tidal wave that could leave towns along a 40-mile stretch of the Feather River below the dam under 100ft of water. There is currently no end in sight for those evacuated from their homes.
The situation is now so critical that President Trump is being urged to declare a disaster in Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties, where 200,000 people, including Department of Water staff, were frantically ordered to evacuate their homes and places of work on Sunday.
Evacuation: Almost 200,000 people were ordered to leave the towns downhill of the Oroville Dam on Sunday as heavy rainfall left it at risk of bursting. On Monday it emerged that authorities had ignored warnings about a possible collapse 12 years ago
Gone: Just two vehicles remain in this shopping mall’s parking lot in Oroville, after warnings that the dam might burst. They have been told they may not be able to return until repairs on the dam have been completed
Marooned: A home in Oroville is seen marooned on a tiny island after the dam’s spillways released excess water into the area. The dam’s main spillway was damaged by the heavy flow of water after recent storms
Swamped: This farm was flooded by the overspill from the dam. Protesters demanded 12 years ago that the spillways be reinforced with concrete that would properly funnel the water and reduce risk of flooding such as this
Going nowhere: Vehicles and carts are seen trapped in the swamp – for how long remains to be seen. Officials responded to the 2005 request for spillway reinforcements by saying there was no risk of this kind of flooding
Erosion: The problems are caused by the dam’s spillways, which carry off excess water. The main spillway (left) has a 250ft hole that is being eroded from underneath. The others are just earth, which was washed away by torrents of water (right)
Fear: There are fears that the ground beneath the dam’s concrete wall will erode during Wednesday’s rain, causing the wall to collapse. If that happens, thousands of tons of water will rush forward in a 30ft ‘tsunami’
Delivery: A large truck full of rocks crosses the primary spillway on the way to deliver its cargo to the damaged emergency spillway at the dam on Monday
On Monday, it emerged that California Governor Jerry Brown had overlooked the Oroville Dam in the $100 billion list of ‘key’ infrastructure projects filed this month.
The list, generated at the request of the National Governor’s Association after Donald Trump called for $1 trillion of infrastructure investment, is a ‘wish list’ of projects for Brown, CNBC reported.
But while the list mentions the Folsom Dam, some 60 miles south of Oroville, as well as flood control in Sacramento, 66 miles away, there is no mention of Oroville Dam itself.
Instead, most of the suggested upgrades in the three-page document are related to transportation, such as highways, bridges and railroads.
Projects to reduce flooding risk in Marysville, 30 miles south of Orosville – and which is in danger of flooding if the dam breaks – are mentioned, as are other levee and dam plans.
All are placed below a proposed high-speed rail track between Los Angeles and San Francisco on the list – although the governor’s office says that the order of the list does not represent how important the projects are.
It added that the list was ‘an initial list of projects. By no means does it represent all of the state’s priorities.’
Brown later said that he was not aware of the 2006 report or the concerns raised about the dam.
Evacuees: Evacuees rest on campbeds in the shelter, located in Chico, around 22 miles northwest of the Oroville Dam. They were told that they would not be allowed to return until the dams’ spillways were repaired
Neighbors: Merna Thompson (left) and Delores Dearte, neighbors from the town of Gridley, California (16 miles southwest of the dam), rest up in the shelter
Waiting: Evacuees wait in another shelter that has been set up in a high school gym in Sutter, California, around 30 miles southwest of Oroville, out of the reach of the projected flood zone
More rain was forecast for as early as Wednesday (local time) and through Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, but the state Department of Water Resources said the upcoming storms were unlikely to threaten the emergency spillway.
Swift action by the department to shore up both spillways while also relieving pressure on the dam averted the immediate danger of a dam failure, Sheriff Honea said.
A failure could have unleashed a wall of water three stories tall on towns below.
State officials used 40 trucks carrying 30 tons of rock per hour to reinforce the eroded area, while two helicopters dropped rock and other materials into the breach.
A previous evacuation order has been reduced to an evacuation warning, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said, after water management officials drained enough water from the Oroville Dam to relieve pressure and avert a catastrophe.
The warning means that people can return home but should be prepared to evacuate again if necessary, Sheriff Honea said.
Officials had ordered 188,000 people living down river from the dam to evacuate.
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