SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The evacuation orders for nearly 200,000 people will stay in place until further notice.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea says the evacuation below the nation’s tallest dam because of the threat of flooding from a damaged spillway will not end right away. Officials said Monday that they are working on a plan to allow residents to return home when it’s safe.
Bill Croyle, acting director of California Department of Water Resources, said more is water leaving Lake Oroville reservoir than coming in. But rain is forecast for Thursday.
Croyle says he’s “not sure anything went wrong” on a damaged spillway at the nation’s tallest dam.
The comments from Croyle come after officials told residents for days that the damage was nothing to be concerned about but then told nearly 200,000 people late Sunday to get out in an hour.
Water officials say storms expected later this week near communities evacuated over the threat of a spillway collapse at the nation’s tallest dam will be smaller than last week.
Residents and local officials have described a panicked and chaotic scene on roads and freeways during an evacuation over the threat of a spillway collapse at the nation’s tallest dam.
Jodye Manley of Olivehurst says she and her husband were having dinner Sunday at her daughter’s house in Sacramento when she got word from a city councilman friend that her area would probably be evacuated.
She says the couple got gas and made a mad dash to get their four dogs and three cats. Manley says she and her neighbors were completely panicked and that the scene “was almost like a movie.”
She says the traffic-filled return to Sacramento was terrifying, with people thinking the spillway would go at any moment.
Chico Councilman Andrew Coolidge says the seven shelters he visited are packed with residents who describe similar terror on jam-packed roads to safety.
Evacuees felt strange on Monday to see their beloved lake associated with urgent voices on the national news.
“Never in our lives did we think anything like this would have happened,” said Brannan Ramirez, who has lived in Oroville, a town of about 16,000 people, for about five years.
The gold-rush town in the Sierra Nevada foothills some 70 miles northeast of Sacramento is nestled near the foot of the dam, which at 770 feet is the nation’s largest. Houses and churches are perched on tree-lined streets near the Feather River. Old, ornate Victorian homes sit alongside smaller bungalows.
“Everybody knows to go there for the Fourth of July,” evacuee Crystal Roberts-Lynch said of the lake. “Then there’s festivals wrapped around the salmon run.” The mother of three, who has lived in Oroville for 10 years, was staying at a Red Cross evacuation center in Chico
Local businesses, including one that sells supplies for gold-panning, dominate a downtown area that spans several blocks. A wide range of chain stores sit a short distance away along the main highway.
“The lake brings in an enormous part of the economy for the town. It definitely is a people-catcher,” said Brannan Ramirez, who has lived in Oroville for about five years. “We get people from all over the country.”