OROVILLE, Calif. - An evacuation order was lifted Tuesday for nearly 200,000 Californians who live below the nation's tallest dam. They had been ordered to evacuate amid fears that a damaged spillway from Oroville Dam could collapse. Officials said they believe the risk of the spillway failing had been significantly reduced.
The evacuation order issued Sunday led to significant traffic backups, as thousands of people moved to higher ground. "It was chaos," said Oroville resident Robert Brabant. "It was a lot of accidents. It was like people weren't paying attention to other people."
Lake levels rose because of heavy winter rainfall and snow in the region. Over the weekend, water from the lake spilled down an earthen emergency spillway that had never been used before, causing significant erosion. Several days earlier, engineers discovered a growing hole in the dam's main concrete spillway.
Watch video of water gushing through the spillway:
Crews drained enough water from the lake that they believe the emergency spillway will not be needed to handle runoff from an approaching storm. They also dropped sandbags, cement blocks and boulders on damaged sections of the spillway in order to shore it up.
Authorities warned, however, that another evacuation order is possible if conditions in the area worsen again.