This animation details a worst-case scenario in Oroville, Calif.: dam failure. With 3.5 million acre feet of water held behind the dam, floodwaters would pour through a huge section of Northern California. Residents closest to the dam would have just minutes to evacuate. Patrick Gleason McClatchy
This animation details a worst-case scenario in Oroville, Calif.: dam failure. With 3.5 million acre feet of water held behind the dam, floodwaters would pour through a huge section of Northern California. Residents closest to the dam would have just minutes to evacuate. Patrick Gleason McClatchy

Water & Drought

Oroville update: Butte, Yuba and Sutter counties reduce evacuation order to warning

By Tony Bizjak, Nashelly Chavez, Robin Opsahl and Jessica Hice

tbizjak@sacbee.com

February 14, 2017 06:16 AM

Chico closes intersections on main egress from fairgrounds shelter

2:05 p.m.

Intersections along East Park Avenue leading to southbound Highway 99 are closed in Chico to give evacuees easier access to the freeway and return home, Butte County announced.

That includes the intersections at Fair Street, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Carmichael Drive. Butte County advises drivers not evacuating to avoid those streets and the area.

Never miss a local story.

Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access.

Bee staff

Stress mounting before evacuations eased

1:30 p.m.

As officials were announcing the lifting of the evacuation order, Debbie Nendze Scheitler was overseeing care of a waiting room full of patients at a clinic on the grounds of Oroville Hospital.

"Flu, colds, people are stressed," she said. "Busy, but we're happy to be here for our patients."

Oroville resident Cildy Bone spent two hours waiting for her brother to get checked for a heart condition.

Everyone is ready to return to normal life, she said.

Groceries and other staples were hard to find, with most businesses closed.

'People are running out of food. I've seen price gouging," she said.

Cynthia Hubert

Mandatory evacuations lifted

1:45 p.m.

Officials have relaxed the mandatory evacuation order to a warning in the areas affected by the Oroville Dam spillway flood threat.

“An Evacuation Warning means the immediate threat has ended but the potential for an emergency remains and therefore residents must remain prepared for the possibility of an Evacuation Order,” the Butte County Sheriff’s website explained.

More details are here.

Bee staff

Press conference delayed

1:21 p.m.

The state Department of Water Resources scheduled a press conference for noon at Oroville Dam, then pushed it to 1 p.m., then failed to start on time.

Mary Lynne Vellinga

Oroville remains, quiet, calm

1:19 p.m.

Oroville police Lt. Chris Nicodemus said his agency has been responding to a smattering of reports of looting and burglary. But the nearly empty city is otherwise calm.

“It is surreal,” he said. “You realize what a beautiful town this is when it’s so quiet and peaceful.

“At the same time, we could be minutes away from a catastrophic event.”

He said local law enforcement is “all hands on deck’ with support from surrounding agencies.

Cynthia Hubert

Marysville repopulates despite mandatory evacuation

11:57 a.m.

The town of Marysville is coming back to life, with some evacuees returning and businesses reopening.

Dennis Eddings, 70, sat on the steps of his home overlooking a small pond with noisy geese, soaking up the sunshine with his dog Lily.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “If it floods I can be out of here in five minutes.”

Sabina Correa, 44, and her son Sebastian evacuated Sunday to a relative’s home in Los Molinos. They returned Tuesday to retrieve important papers and changes of clothes.

It’s been a stressful few days, she said.

“I can’t watch the news anymore. I can’t read about it.’ She said she’s confident all will return to normal soon.

“I’m glad I can swim,” Sebastian said.

Cynthia Hubert

Lake Oroville should be empty enough to handle new storm, hydrologist says

11:55 a.m.

As water levels continue to drop at Lake Oroville, the state’s chief hydrologist said Tuesday the reservoir should be empty enough to withstand the next round of rainstorms expected to hit late Wednesday.

Department of Water Resources hydrologist Maury Roos said the lake is expected to be holding about 3.15 million acre-feet of water by late Wednesday, leaving about 380,000 acre-feet of empty space.

“That would be adequate for the size of the storm that’s forecast,” Roos said. “We’d like to have more.”

Ideally, flood-control manuals say the lake should be down to 2.79 million acre-feet for this time of year, but that’s in anticipation of “a very large flood,” Roos said. “There’s nothing in the (weather) outlook that suggests we’re going to get that.”

DWR has been frantically releasing water from its damaged spillway at 100,000 cubic feet per second to empty out space before the next storm approaches. The lake was at 887 feet high just before noon, 14 feet below the top of the dam, and has been dropping about a half a foot per hour.

Dale Kasler

Helicopters deliver bags of rock on the emergency spillway at Oroville Dam to repair holes due to erosion. CHP - Valley Division

Lake Oroville would fall 25 feet below emergency spillway lip at current pace

11:30 a.m.

Officials continue to dump water from Oroville Dam at a rapid pace of 100,000 cubic feet per second, and the lake is now dropping by about nine feet every 24 hours.

Lake levels stood at 887.5 feet at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, roughly 13 feet below the level where water flows over the lake’s emergency spillway. At current pace, the lake will be around 25 feet below the emergency spillway when an expected storm hits Oroville on Wednesday evening, state figures indicate.

Officials want to avoid using the emergency spillway again. Apparent erosion on the hillside beneath the emergency spillway led engineers to believe its failure was imminent on Sunday night, leading to the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people downstream.

This week’s storms are expected to drop about 7 to 9 inches of precipitation on Lake Oroville and upstream, said Idamis Del Valle, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sacramento. Storms last week dropped about 12 to 20 inches of rain over a similar, five-day period – and caused lake levels to rise by 50 feet.

“These new storms are not as wet,” Del Valle said, but could have “amplified effects” after so much wet weather.

The storms could “go through at least Tuesday and perhaps even beyond that. It’s a little bit far out to tell specific details,” Del Valle said.

How high the lake rises during the coming storm will depend on a number of factors, particularly whether officials will be able to continue dumping massive amounts of water out of the dam’s main spillway, despite a large hole in its midsection. Authorities said that the main spillway is holding up well.

The other main factor will be how fast water comes into the lake. During last week’s storms, water flowed into the lake at more than 100,000 cubic feet per second for four consecutive days, peaking at 191,000 cfs Thursday night. However, officials were not releasing water nearly as quickly – the average pace of releases over those same four days was 33,000 cubic feet per second. That contributed to the lake’s rapid rise.

Phillip Reese

These Oroville-area roadways remain closed

10:45 a.m.

Several Oroville-area roads and highways remain closed Tuesday morning, the state Department of Transportation announced.

They include:

▪ Highway 99 at Durham-Pentz Road

▪ Highway 99 at Highway149

▪ Highway 70 at Clark Road

▪ Highway 70 at Highway149

▪ Eastbound Highway 20 at Aquas Frias Road

▪ Highway 70 at Woodruff Lane

▪ Highway 70 at Highway 20

▪ Highway 99 at Highway 20

Additional roads are closed from Highway 70 to Highway 99:

▪ East and westbound Cottonwood Road

▪ East and westbound Nelson Shippee Road

▪ East and westbound Highway 162

East Gridley Road in Gridley, just east of Feather River Bridge, has also flooded and is impassable, Caltrans said.

Nashelly Chavez

Community groups seek funds, materials for evacuees

10:20 a.m.

As the Oroville-area evacuation order remains in place, community organizations are seeking donations to support shelters for evacuees and provide needed materials.

The Sacramento Region Community Foundation established a fund to provide necessities like food, shelter, transpiration and clothes to people evacuated during the Oroville Dam crisis. The donations to the disaster fund will go to first-responder organizations in Colusa, Glenn, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Tehama, and Yolo counties responding to the evacuation. Donations can be made here.

Other community foundations, like the North Valley Community Foundation, have created similar funds to help frontline and relief organizations, accessible on their website. Organizations like the American Red Cross Gold Country Region, Salvation Army, and the Southern California Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Ministries have been working to help those affected by the evacuation.

Salvation Army is accepting donations to help provide meals for people in evacuation centers in Northern California, in addition meal services for first responders in Oroville. Salvation Army accepts donations on their website, by phone at 1-800-725-2769, or by mail at The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 348000, Sacramento 95834. Donations can be designated “Oroville Response” to go directly to Oroville dam relief efforts.

Salvation Army plans to continue meal service through at least Wednesday, but will extend services as long as staff assesses that it’s needed.

Yolo County is also accepting donations to help finance a shelter at the county fairgrounds, which provided 300 people emergency housing during the evacuation. The Yolo County shelter is also asking for donations of specific supplies, including soy-based formula, towels, washcloths, undergarments, socks, combs and brushes. Donations can be made on their website or Facebook page, as well as by mail to Yolo County Housing, 147 W. Main St., Woodland 95695.

Robin Ospahl

Aerial video update pf the Feather/Sacramento River confluence, Sutter Bypass, Lake Oroville and Feather River below Oroville. This was shot Feb. 12, 2017, before the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people due to Oroville Dam spillway problems. The video by from John Hannon illustrates the incredible water flow that continues in our region. John HannonSacramento Valley Water

Yolo County calling all restaurateurs

9:25 a.m.

Yolo County put out a call this morning for restaurateurs to help feed evacuees staying at the fairgrounds in Woodland.

The county advises them to call Rudy at 707-208-8899.

Yolo also needs the following supplies for its shelter at 1250 E. Gum St.: Soy-based formula, towels/washcloths, undergarments/socks, combs/brushes and sturdy paper plates and bowls.

Kevin Yamamura

Bringing a shining light to a difficult situation, CHP officers present a boy with a birthday cake, gifts and a song. Junior, 3, celebrated his birthday in the Red Cross shelter at Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico after his family was evacuated. Mike Wrobelvia Facebook

Update on school closures

9:15 a.m.

Marysville Joint Unified School District announced this morning that it will close all week “due to Oroville and indefinite evacuation order.”

Several Yuba, Butte and Sutter county schools remain closed Tuesday, following the Oroville-area evacuations. Yuba County’s Plumas Lake Elementary School District, Wheatland School District and Wheatland Union High School said they were not open Tuesday.

All schools in Sutter County, including three special education classrooms, were also closed for the day, according to the Sutter County Superintendent of Schools website. School officials said they would continue to stay in contact with emergency officials to provide parents with updates on school closures.

The schools were listed as Winship-Robbins Elementary, Meridian Elementary, Yuba City Unified, Sutter Union, Live Oak Unified, Pleasant Grove Joint Union, East Nicolaus High School, Brittan Elementary, Franklin Elementary, Nuestro, Marcum-Illinois Union, Browns Elementary, Yuba City Charter and Twin Rivers Charter.

In Butte County, 12 school districts were to remain closed for the rest of the week, according to the county’s Office of Education website. Districts affected are: Bangor Union Elementary School District Biggs Unified School District, Durham Unified School District, Feather Falls Union Elementary School District, Golden Feather Union Elementary School District, Gridley Unified School District, Manzanita Elementary School District, Oroville City Elementary School District, Oroville Union High School District, Palermo Union Elementary School District, Pioneer Union Elementary School District and Thermalito Union Elementary School District.

Chico Unified School District and Paradise Unified School District would remain open.

Nashelly Chavez

Rerouted mail can be picked up

9:05 a.m.

The U.S. Postal Service has shut down in cities affected by the mandatory evacuation during the Oroville Dam crisis, rerouting mail and services to surrounding cities.

“We apologize for this inconvenience to our customers,” said Ashleigh Rodriguez, manager of Post Office Operations for Sacramento District. “But we are making every attempt to make mail available for customer pick up where conditions are safe.”

Mail delivery and post office services were stopped Monday after an evacuation was issued in eight cities: Nicolaus, Oroville, Yuba City, Marysville, Gridley, Live Oak, Biggs, Olivehurst and Palermo. Residents from these cities can pick up their mail from the alternative locations with proper identification.

Closed post offices’ mail can be picked up at the following locations:

▪ Marysville mail can be picked up at the Yuba City Post Office, 761 Plumas St.

▪ Nicolaus mail can be picked up at the Rio Oso Post Office, 2156 Rio Oso Road.

▪ Olivehurst mail can be picked up at the Wheatland Post Office, 404 Fourth St.

▪ Gridley, Live Oak, Palermo, Oroville and Berry Creek mail can be picked up at the Chico Midtown Post Office, 141 W. Fifth St.

Robin Opsahl

More rain expected over several days

8:30 a.m.

Rain is expected to sweep through the Sacramento area later this week and last into the weekend, adding additional water to the area’s already swollen streams and rivers.

Rainfall is expected to come late Wednesday night or early Thursday, bringing up to an inch of rain with it for the Sacramento area, said Tom Dang, National Weather Service meteorologist.

The oncoming storm, while less intense than the ones seen last week, is cause for concern for crews in Oroville, who are working to mitigate damage caused to the Oroville Dam emergency spillway.

Nashelly Chavez

About 60 evacuees at Cal Expo

7:55 a.m.

Evacuees from the Oroville area have been trickling into the Sacramento Red Cross shelter at the Cal Expo Racetrack Grandstand since 10 a.m. Monday.

About 60 evacuees are using the RV and campgrounds, eating donated hot meals and staying warm, said Mike Jaime, Red Cross volunteer .

“This is their house right now, some of them have been through a lot,” Jaime said.

Jessica Hice

About 60 evacuees are using the RV and campgrounds, eating donated hot meals and staying warm, said Mike Jaime, American Red Cross volunteer. Jessica HiceThe Sacramento Bee

Sacramento SPCA opens doors to Oroville-evacuee dogs and cats

7:25 a.m.

The Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is opening its doors to pets of Oroville-area residents who have left their homes due to mandatory evacuations.

The animal shelter said it had limited space to house large and small dogs, as well as cats at no costs to pet owners. Several Oroville-area residents said they were forced to leave their four-legged companions at home while evacuating from their homes Sunday night.

Interested pet-owners are encouraged to call the Sacramento SPCA, located at 6201 Florin-Perkins Road, at (916) 504-2829 to reserve space for their pets.

Nashelly Chavez

Crews make solid progress shoring up damaged spillway

6:40 a.m.

Crews working through the night atop the crippled Oroville Dam have made solid progress in shoring up the damaged emergency spillway, state officials reported Tuesday morning.

The state officials said they are not, however, ready to end the evacuation order that has displaced tens of thousands of residents of Oroville and other cities in the Feather River floodplain.

“We don’t want to bring them back until we are 100 percent assured that they can stay back in their homes,” Chris Orrock of the state Department of Water Resources said.

Helicopters landed at the dam site the early Tuesday, but they haven’t begun ferrying large bags of rocks and debris into the large crevice on the emergency spillway. On Monday, the rocks were spread by a dozer, then covered by concrete, at the emergency spillway.

“We’re preparing for that next weather system coming in,” said Orrock. “We’re looking pretty good right now. The next couple of days will be telling.”

The dam’s damaged main spillway continues to carry 100,000 cubic feet of water per second.

Inspectors say the spillway is holding steady, and does not appear to be further eroded by the outflows in recent days.

Lake levels meanwhile continue to drop overnight. Water resources official say they would like to see the level at 860 feet by Thursday when inflows should be starting from this weeks expected rains. That would put the lake level at more than 40 feet below the top of the emergency spillway.

It was at 889 feet as of 6 a.m.

Tony Bizjak in Oroville

Lake Oroville has fallen more than 13 feet since evacuation began

6:15 a.m.

Lake Oroville water levels continue to fall as state officials send nearly 100,000 cubic feet of water per second down the main spillway in hopes of dropping the reservoir as much as 25 feet by the time the next storm arrives Wednesday night.

According to the latest state data, the lake was at 889.49 feet as of 6 a.m., more than 13 feet below where it stood when evacuation orders came down Sunday evening.

Will it hold? Oroville Dam makes it through a key test

Crews are working furiously to bolster eroded sections of the emergency spillway. That damage occurred after the lake topped 901 feet on Saturday morning and sent water over the concrete lip of that spillway for the first time since Oroville Dam was built in 1968.

Evacuations of 188,000 people from Oroville down to Plumas Lake remain in effect. With little notice, residents fled Sunday night to evacuation centers, hotels and relatives’ homes throughout the region, including the greater Sacramento area. Emergency shelters are operating in Roseville, Woodland and at Cal Expo. The area’s Sikh temples also have opened up their doors to help evacuees.

Kevin Yamamura

Yuba City evacuee Merida Lozano waits at the Yolo County Fairgrounds for word that it is safe to return home. She and many others have been displaced by evacuations after damage to the Oroville Dam spillway. Monday, February 13, 2017. Angela HartThe Sacramento Bee

Water levels dropped Monday at California's Lake Oroville, stopping water from spilling over a massive dam's potentially hazardous emergency spillway after authorities ordered the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people from towns lying below the lake. KGO via AP

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak