‘People Are Preparing for the Worst’: Rains Put Oroville Dam to the Test

Repairs to America’s tallest dam are being put to the test Thursday after heavy rains caused damage to a portion of the structure.

It’s been five days of frantic, non-stop work to secure the Oroville Dam, located some 150 miles northeast of San Francisco.
“It’s important to remember that this is still an emergency situation,” Sheriff Kory Honea of Butte County told reporters.

On Saturday, heavy rains caused a section of the dam’s main spillway to erode, forcing California authorities to allow water to flow over an emergency spillway for the first time in 50 years. 

With some 100,000 cubic feet of water gushing through the gates of the spillway every second, crews have been scrambling to drain more water from a lake behind the dam and make critical repairs to shore up the emergency spillway.

A series of storms now rolling through the region will test those quick repairs made on the dam.

“The dam structure is safe,” said Bill Croyle with the Department of Water Resources. “We are working on those areas that have been challenged by the loss of a portion of the spillway.”

200,000 residents downstream have been told to prepare to leave if the risk of flooding increases.

“People are just trying to get prepared, I think, for the worst, you know, prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” said Mark Miller, a resident who lives not too far from the dam.
Forecasters say three storm systems will hit the region over the next six days, bringing more than five inches of rain.

Authorities are confident the repairs done so far will hold at the nation’s tallest dam.


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