Oroville dam evacuation order lifted, warning remains

The water from the Feather River flows through Oroville Calif. Monday Feb. 13 2017. Water levels at Lake Oroville which feeds the river are continuing to drop stopping water from spilling over the spillway. Thousands of Northern California residents

Residents living below the Oroville Dam suddenly were ordered to evacuate Sunday after water authorities assured them for almost a week the dam was sound despite a gaping and growing hole in the structure's main spillway.

An evacuation warning means the immediate threat has ended but potential for an emergency remains and therefore residents must remain prepared for the possibility of an evacuation order.

Although the dam's structure remained intact, the damage to the primary spillway was serious enough to prompt officials to order the evacuation of almost 188,000 people living around Oroville over concerns that the emergency spillway might fail and cause billions of gallons of uncontrolled water to pour down the hillside toward Oroville and other towns downstream.

"This is still an emergency", Honea told reporters. And a 30-foot wall of water can bring a lot of sorrow. The death toll could have been staggering. "But despite how really chaotic it was, I'm really proud and thankful of the citizens of Butte County..."

"We were told repeatedly that the spillways and the dam were all fine", said Eric Wesselman, executive director of advocacy organization Friends of the River, according to Reuters.

Crews have been working around the clock to fix the dam's damaged spillway.

Officials say the water level at the lake behind the dam is now low enough to accommodate the expected rain.

Displaced men pick up donated toothbrushes from a relief center after an evacuation was ordered for communities downstream from the dam.

The reservoir has dropped six metres since it reached capacity on Sunday - Mr Croyle said officials hoped that it would fall 15 metres by Sunday.

Cal Fire Capt. Dan Olson, a spokesman for the Oroville incident, said Wednesday morning: "We have crews working 24 hours a day".

The fixes could be put to their first test later this week with the first of a series of small storms forecast for the region.

"Mother Nature is in the room", Coyle admitted.

Honea said that the almost 200,000 residents allowed to return home should use the time this week before the next set of storms to fully prepare in case another evaluation is needed.

Fears of getting stuck in traffic if there's another evacuation order prompted several people sheltered at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley to stay where they were.

"My plan is to stay here". Before the mandatory evacuation was reduced to a warning or recommendation yesterday, officials took almost 300 animals to shelter in Chico and out of potential harm's way, creatures that are now being returned to their homes and families.

The earth-filled dam is just upstream and east of Oroville, a town of about 16,000 people.

"There are people that are reviewing everything that's being done out here and I'm sure, for months and years to come, will be talking about this", Orrock said.

But Richard and Anna Lawson of Oroville said they were not rushing home.

Many other evacuees, such as Oroville resident Margaret Johnston, couldn't wait to get back home.

"You don't appreciate home until it's taken away from you", said Johnston, 69, who spent the last two nights sheltering at a church in Chico, California. "Very frustrating", Johnston said.

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