The Orion

Oroville Spillway evacuation order lowered to warning

Chico+Police+Chief+Mike+O%27Brien+helps+Oroville+evacuees+at+the+Silver+Dollar+Fairgrounds.+Photo+credit%3A+Miguel+Orozco
Chico Police Chief Mike O'Brien helps Oroville evacuees at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. Photo credit: Miguel Orozco

Chico Police Chief Mike O'Brien helps Oroville evacuees at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. Photo credit: Miguel Orozco

Chico Police Chief Mike O'Brien helps Oroville evacuees at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. Photo credit: Miguel Orozco

Bianca Quilantan

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Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea reduced the immediate evacuation order to an evacuation warning at a press conference in Oroville on Feb. 14. The warning status was effective starting at 1 p.m.

Approximately 200,000 residents were displaced by the immediate evacuation orders placed on Feb. 12 due to the possible failure of the eroding Oroville dam emergency spillway. Residents who were displaced by the immediate evacuation orders may now return home. Immediate threat has ended but the potential for an emergency remains and therefore residents must remain prepared for the possibility of an evacuation order, Honea said in a press release.

Road closures have been lifted by Caltrans as well. However, Highway 70 and Highway 162 will remain closed due to flooding near the evacuation area.

Many factors contributed to the decision to reduce the order. Factors include:

Lower lake levels: Lake Oroville’s level has dropped 12 feet below the emergency spillway and water is no longer flowing over the top.

Further inspections: An inspection revealed that the ability of the emergency spillway was not compromised by the erosion. The Department of Water Resources, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the United States Army Corps of Engineers inspected the damage.

Ongoing work to fix emergency spillway: The DWR is lining the front of the spillway with boulders and concrete in order to prevent more erosion. It is expected to be completed by Feb. 15.

Updated weather forecasts: The storm expected later this week is forecasted to have less rain, meaning a lower level of water will flow into the reservoir.

Honea said most evacuation centers in Butte County will close as evacuees return home.

“An evacuation center will remain open at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds,” Honea said. “All other evacuation centers supported by Butte County will be closed. Residents from other centers who are still seeking shelter due to the evacuation warning can go to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds.”

Bianca Quilantan can be reached at newseditor@theorion.com or @biancaquilan on Twitter.

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Oroville Spillway evacuation order lowered to warning