Monday, February 13, 2017

Potential Collapse of Oroville Dam in California

     The Oroville Dam is the tallest dam in America, and provides a great deal of water for irrigation in the central valley, as well as water to residences and businesses in Southern California. Last week, because of record rainfall and meltwater, officials were forced to release record amounts of water from the dam through its spillway. Unfortunately, the spillway began breaking apart in one location and became severely damaged (probably from cavitation, similar to the 1983 incident at the Glenn Canyon Dam in Utah/Arizona). Nevertheless, officials maintained that there was no danger of the dam collapse.

       But water levels increased, requiring officials, for the first time in the history of the dam, to use the emergency spillway, which also suffered damage (probably due to the same issue). As of the morning of Sunday, February 12, 2017, officials were still saying that there was no danger of the dam collapsing. However, Sunday afternoon, government officials ordered the evacuation of nearly 200,000 residents in Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties in Northern California (including the cities of Oroville, Gridley, Live Oak, Marysville, Wheat land, Yuba City, Plumas Lake, and Olivehurst) in the event of a failure. According to an AP article:
The erosion at the head of the emergency spillway threatens to undermine the concrete weir and allow large, uncontrolled releases of water from Lake Oroville, the California Department of Water Resources said. Those potential flows could overwhelm the Feather River and other downstream waterways, channels and levees.
The California National Guard has reportedly notified all 23,000 if its soldiers and airmen to be ready to deploy if needed. 

       The latest news I've found indicates that officials have successfully been able to drop the water levels in the dam, but storms expected this Friday may fill it right back up to the brim.

       News reports indicate that there is grid-lock in some of the areas under the evacuation order as people attempt to flee, and lines are backed up to buy gasoline.

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