Oroville dam evacuees may not be home for 2 weeks

Erosion damage on the bottom half of the Oroville Spillway prompted the Department of California Water Resources to reduce the outflow from the lake. Croyle said officials hope it falls 50 feet by this Sunday.

"We don't anticipate the water level to rise in coming days, but we will continue to monitor the forecast into the future", Croyle said. State water officials said they have drained enough of the lake behind Oroville Dam so that its earthen emergency spillway will not be needed to handle runoff from an approaching storm that is expected to bring rain later in the week.

The announcement by Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, who ordered the mass exodus Sunday afternoon amid fears that the dam's emergency spillway might collapse, came in an afternoon press briefing in Oroville.

The sheriff credited swift action by the Department of Water Resources to shore up the emergency spillway and use the main spillway to relieve pressure on the dam, averting the immediate danger of a dam failure, Honea said.

Following successful efforts to lower Oroville Lake's water level and address erosion in its spillways, officials reduced the evacuation order to an evacuation warning, allowing more than 188,000 residents to return to their homes and businesses. The primary spillway is also damaged, but it is still useable, officials said.

Honea said that the almost 200,000 residents allowed to return home should use the time this week before the next set of storms to fully prepare in case another evaluation is needed.

Honea said Tuesday the call to order almost 200,000 people to higher ground protected lives and bought time for water experts to address the problems. Emergency spillways are usually reserved for last-resort situations.

Cal Fire Capt. Dan Olson, a spokesman for the Oroville incident, said Wednesday morning: "We have crews working 24 hours a day". The dam now remains intact, but the emergency spillway is eroding. However I'm concerned about them not being as truthful as they should be.

"This is a potentially catastrophic situation - affecting thousands of people and homes - and our first priority is making sure people have a safe place to stay", Kieserman said.

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