OROVILLE, California: Thousands of northern Californians were told to leave their homes on Sunday evening, as an emergency spillway in the country's tallest dam was in danger of failing and unleashing uncontrolled flood waters on towns below
The emergency spillway of the Oroville Dam in Northern California could fail within an hour unleashing uncontrolled flood waters from Lake Oroville, the California Department of Water Resources said on Sunday afternoon.
People in downstream areas need to leave the area immediately, the department said.
Officials earlier Sunday stressed the dam was structurally sound and said there was no threat to the public.
Residents of Oroville, a town of 16,000 people, should head north toward Chico, and other cities should follow orders from their local law enforcement agencies, the Butte County Sheriff's office said.
The Yuba County Office of Emergency Services asked residents in the valley floor, including Marysville, a city of 12,000 people, to evacuate and take routes to the east, south, or west and avoid traveling north toward Oroville.
The California Department of Water Resources said it is releasing as much as 100,000 cubic feet per second from the main, heavily damaged spillway to try to drain the lake.
Department Kevin Dossey tells the Sacramento Bee the emergency spillway was rated to handle 250,000
cubic feet per second, but it began to show weakness Sunday at a small fraction of that. Flows through the spillway peaked at 12,600 cubic feet per second at 1 a.m. Sunday and were down to 8,000 cubic feet per second by midday.
Water began flowing over the emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam in Northern California on Saturday for the first time in its nearly 50-year history after heavy rainfall.