Engineers are racing against time to beat another round of heavy rain, after tens of thousands of people downstream from the Lake Oroville Dam were forced to evacuate on Sunday.
The decision by officials to relieve water pressure through the dam’s damaged main spillway has proved successful so far. Erosion of the secondary spillway threatened to undermine the entire dam on Sunday. Had the dam failed, a 30 foot wall of water would have barreled into nearby towns.
— bill husa (@billhusa1) February 9, 2017
As lake levels levels continue to drop below spill height, emergency managers are preparing for another bout of heavy rain to strike Northern California this week. It remains to be seen whether the amount being drained will be enough. Current estimates place Lake Oroville among the highest rainfall totals in the state during the coming week.
One positive aspect of this storm compared to last week will be temperatures. Last week’s storm brought extremely warm temps from the tropical Pacific causing slow levels to rise close to 8,000 feet. This warm up melted mountain snow, adding to the flooding. In the upcoming storm, snow levels will be much lower, closer to 5,000 feet, which will mean less runoff for the swollen Lake Oroville.
Officials have expressed optimism, though remain cautious as repairs continue with the imminent rain and gusty winds. Engineers will be taking every precaution during the upcoming storm as tens of thousands of residents were allowed back to their homes late Tuesday.