Some evacuees in Marysville say their mood is bordering on panic.
Erin English of Linda said she got a robo-call a few minutes ago telling her to evacuate and get to higher ground.
She immediately called 911 and dispatchers there at first told her to go to Chico, then changed their mind saying that she might not make it there before water came through.
Instead they told her to go to the Colusa Casino.
She was getting gas in South Marysville with her husband and two children and her dogs. They didn't have time, she said, to grab anything from their home.
"I'm scared to death. I've never been through anything like this before," she said. "I pray for the safety of everybody here."
Expert says spillway failure could be catastrophic
Nicholas Sitar, the Edward G. Cahill and John R. Cahill Professor of Civil Engineering at UC Berkeley, said losing 30 feet from the top of the emergency spillway could be catastrophic.
"You look at 30 feet times the area of the reservoir," he said. "That is how much water is going to come out. That is a huge volume of water."
He said the Department of Water Resources is "dumping as much water as the river could handle."
He said, "All that you do is watch it – whatever expert you talk to, all you can do is hope for the best."
Caltrans tweeted that the evacuation for Yuba, Sutter and Butte counties includes Hallwood, Marysville, Olivehurst/Linda, Plumas Lake, Gridley, Live Oak and Yuba City due to potential failure of Oroville Dam spillway.
Oroville and other area residents streaming out of town have created a large traffic jam at Highway 99 and Bogue Road, where many are fueling their vehicles and heading for safety.
Jessica Robertson, 28, a Yuba City resident, was among the throngs Sunday night filling her gas tank after receiving the word to get out.
“I’m fine, but I’m a little irritated with the traffic,” she said. “I hope everyone stays safe. They’re saying everything’s going to be fine, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
Michelle Grandinetti and her family quickly left their home off Oroville Quincy Highway and tried to get on Hwy. 70 to head for a family member’s home in Elk Grove. Grandinetti described a slow-going, frantic scene.
“We took enough clothes for three days, our children, seven total that are still with us, our two dogs and food for them!,” Grandinetti wrote in a Facebook message to The Bee. “We just moved here a few months ago and haven't ever had to deal with this! Everyone is leaving! All the stores are closed! Just got on the freeway and the river is only feet away!”
Effect on Sacramento?
Sacramento emergency officials are monitoring impact of Oroville Dam emergency
Sacramento County emergency services officials say they are assessing what, if any, impact the Oroville Dam situation may have on Sacamento.
“We are aware of the situation in Oroville and will continue to monitor for any impacts it may have on Sacramento County,” authorities said in a tweet.
The worst case scenario
There is no map showing exactly what will happen if the emergency spillway collapses tonight. Officials only have a map showing a failure of the dam. That worst case scenario is useful in that it shows where water goes and how fast it gets there.
Water would get to the town of Oroville within an hour.
If Oroville Dam were to suffer a massive breach, water would get to the town of Oroville within an hour, according to GIS maps maintained by CalFire.
Within two hours, the small town of Briggs would be affected. In three hours, Gridley would be hit. Water would reach Live Oak in five hours..
It would take eight to 12 hours for the water to get to Marysville and Yuba City.
If the dam completely failed, flood depths could reach more than 100 feet in Oroville and up to 10 feet in Yuba City.
The CalFire maps represent a catastrophic breach and are not necessarily indicative of what could happen tonight.
Heavy traffic amid evacuation
Aerial photos show traffic backed up along Highway 70 as people from Oroville try to escape to the north.
Flows boosted to try to avoid collapse
Releases through the main spillway at Oroville Dam have been boosted to 100,000 cubic feet per second from 55,000 cfs in hopes of easing pressure on the emergency spillway before a failure occurs, officials said Sunday night.
Kevin Dossey, a Department of Water Resources engineer and spokesman said “it might help” to alleviate the pressure.
So far, Dossey said, the emergency spillway’s concrete lip at the top has not crumbled, although the hillside had “eroded to within several feet” of the big concrete structure.
Marysville and Yuba County ordered evacuated; officials unsure how Sacramento could be hit
Marysville, Yuba County ordered to evacuate
Marysville police say the city and Yuba County are under mandatory evacuation orders because of the feared collapse of the emergency spillway at Lake Oroville Dam. Yolo County officials said in a tweet that they do not expect any impact.
Witnesses reported a heavy police presence in the city.
“The hazardous situation concerning the Oroville Dam auxiliary spillway is NOT expected to impact Yolo County,” the county said.
Cal OES spokesman Brad Alexander said officials were activating the state emergency operations center and could not immediately address how waterlogged Sacramento County might be affected.
“I can’t answer that right now,” Alexander said.
“It’s uncontrolled. It’s uncontrolled
Fearing a gush from Lake Oroville if the emergency spillway collapses, officials are releasing as much as 100,000 cubic feet per second from the main, heavily damaged spillway in a frantic effort to drain the lake below where it spills out the emergency structure when the lake reaches maximum capacity, said Kevin Dossey, an engineer and Department of Water Resources spokesman.
The levee-line downstream channels in the Feather River could hold more than 150,000 cubic feet per second, said Maury Roos, a DWR hydrologist, but he said there’s a possibility that a levee could breach from the pressure.
Roos said that below where the Feather River merges with the Yuba River, levees are rated for a capacity of around 300,000 cfs.
When asked how much water could be released should the spillway collapse, DWR spokesman Chris Orrock said, “It’s uncontrolled. It’s uncontrolled.”
Dossey said the emergency spillway was rated to handle 250,000 cubic feet per second, but it began to show weakness Sunday at a small fraction of that. Flows through the spillway peaked at 12,600 cfs at 1 a.m. Sunday and were down to 8,000 cfs by midday.
Evacuation center at Silver Dollar Fairgrounds
An evacuation center has been established for Oroville residents at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, according to the National Weather Service. The address is 2357 Fair St.
Butte County sheriff: “This is NOT A Drill.”
The Butte County Sheriff’ Office released the following statement on Facebook:
This is an evacuation order.
Immediate evacuation from the low levels of Oroville and areas downstream is ordered.
A hazardous situation is developing with the Oroville Dam auxiliary spillway. Operation of the auxiliary spillway has lead to severe erosion that could lead to a failure of the structure. Failure of the auxiliary spillway structure will result in an uncontrolled release of flood waters from Lake Oroville. In response to this developing situation, DWR is increasing water releases to 100,000 cubic feet per second.
Immediate evacuation from the low levels of Oroville and areas downstream is ordered.
This in NOT A Drill. This in NOT A Drill. This in NOT A Drill.
Chris Orrock, a spokesman for the Department of Water Resources, told The Bee the failure happened as the bottom of the emergency spillway began to erode.
“It happened quickly,” he said.
Sutter County also put out an alert on Facebook:
We have received information about the potential for increased flows in the Feather River of as much as 100,000 cubic feet per second. We are gathering as much information as possible and will be providing additional information as soon as it is verified.
Officials warn of “imminent failure” at Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway
Officials are warning those living downstream of Lake Oroville’s dam to evacuate because of a risk that the dam’s emergency spillway could collapse.
“They have what they expect to be an imminent failure of the axillary spillway,” said Mike Smith, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “What they’re expecting is as much as 30 vertical feet of the top of the spillway could fail and could fail within one to two hours. We don’t know how much water that means, but we do know that’s potentially 30 feet of depth of Lake Oroville.”
The Department of Water Resources, which operates the dam, said in a 4:42 p.m. Twitter post that the emergency spillway could fail within the next hour.
“Oroville residents evacuate northward,” the Tweet said.