California Oroville Dam Expected to Fail. Mandatory Evacuations, Could Have Downstream Effects in Sacramento

After officials warned about the imminent failure of the Oroville Dam after an emergency spillway, the Butte County Sheriff’s office released a statement on Facebook ordering an immediate evacuation from the low levels of Oroville and areas downstream.

The National Weather Service reports that Oroville residents will be camped at an evacuation center which has been improvised at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico. The evacuation center address is 2357 Fair Street.

The evacuation order was issued by California Department of Water Resources at about 5 PM on Sunday for all residents near the Oroville Dam in Northern California, warning them that the emergency spillway may catastrophically fail in the next hour, releasing billions of gallons of water and even flooding Sacramento.

The Oroville Dam is the highest in the United States. The Facebook evac-order states:

EMERGENCY EVACUATION ORDER ISSUED: Officials are anticipating a failure of the Auxiliary Spillway at Oroville Dam within the next 60 minutes. Residents of Oroville should evacuate in a northward direction, toward Chico. Other cities should follow the orders of their local law enforcement.


An emergency spillway was activated earlier on Saturday morning, for relieving the flow down after a major hole appeared in the last couple of days and started to widen progressively. The height of the lake had reached over 900 feet above sea level as it got swollen by recent snow melt and rains.




Despite the initial claim from authorities that no evacuation will be necessary, as the damage to the spillway appeared to be limited, it now seems that the emergency spillways may suffer a catastrophic structural failure and may affect the dam itself, in which case we can expect a major economic and ecological disaster.


Photo Credit William Croyle / CA DWP / Associated Press