Evacuation order issued after Oroville Dam overflows

Water flows through break in the wall of the Oroville Dam spillway, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, in Oroville, Calif. The torrent chewed up trees and soil alongside the concrete spillway before rejoining the main channel below. Engineers don't know what caused what state Department of Water Resources spokesman Eric See called a "massive" cave-in that is expected to keep growing until it reaches bedrock. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

OROVILLE (KRON/AP)—An immediate evacuation has been ordered for low levels of Oroville and areas downstream Sunday night, according to Cal Fire officials.

The emergency spillway has developed severe erosion which could cause the structure to fail.

The Department of Water Resources doubled the water it releases from 55,000 cubic feet per second to 100,000 cubic feet per second in response to the order.

“The idea behind the strategy was to decrease the amount of erosion,” said a California Water Resources officials.

Flows are being contained with downstream channels.

Around 10 p.m. Sunday night, water officials report water is no longer spilling over the emergency spillway.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said that the evacuation orders will stand until more information is analyzed.

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The Department of Water Resources is using helicopters to drop rocks, so they can fill the gouge in the Oroville Spillway and stabilize it.

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The Butte County Sheriff’s Office says the emergency spillway could fail within an hour unleashing uncontrolled flood waters from Lake Oroville.

The department says people in downstream areas need to leave the area immediately.

It says residents of Oroville, a town of 16,000 people, should head north toward Chico and that other cities should follow orders from their local law enforcement agencies.

Water began flowing over the emergency spillway at dam on Saturday for the first time in its nearly 50-year history after heavy rainfall.

Butte County has set up an evacuation center at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico for Oroville residents impacted.

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Yuba County, Gridley, Live Oak, Yuba City and Marysville are also included in the evacuation order.

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Water began flowing over the emergency spillway at the dam on Saturday after heavy rainfall damaged the main spillway.

Unexpected erosion chewed through the main spillway earlier this week, sending chunks of concrete flying and creating a 200-foot-long, 30-foot-deep hole that continues growing. Engineers don’t know what caused the cave-in, but Chris Orrock, a spokesman for the state Department of Water Resources, said it appears the dam’s main spillway has stopped crumbling even though it’s being used for water releases.

About 150 miles northeast of San Francisco, Lake Oroville is one of California’s largest man-made lakes, and the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam is the nation’s tallest. The lake is a central piece of California’s government-run water delivery network, supplying water for agriculture in the Central Valley and residents and businesses in Southern California.

About 35,000 residents in Yuba County are under evacuation orders, 76,000 residents in Yuba City and 12,000 residents in Marysville.

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For more information about the evacuations ordered, Butte County residents can dial 2-1-1. Yuba or Sutter residents can call 1-866-916-3566.

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