Water flow over spillway stopped
State officials say the water spilling over the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway has stopped as the lake level dropped low enough.
At 8:45 p.m. the lake level fell below the lip of the auxiliary spillway for the first time since Saturday and “the flowing has stopped,”said Department of Water Resources spokesman Doug Carlson.
Boulders dropped in effort to shore up spillway
At 9 p.m. a state water official said the concrete lip of the emergency spillway was still holding.
“The erosion has slowed, and I think we’re going to be OK,” said state Department of Water Resources spokesman Chris Orrock.
Orrock said efforts Sunday night to shore up the damage included the use of six helicopters that were dropping containers of boulders onto the damaged hillside.
Flows over emergency spillway dry up
That means little or no water is likely coming over the emergency spillway – and the threat of collapse due to erosion has diminished said Joe Countryman, a member of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and a former engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Water coming over the top of the emergency spillway is likely the main factor in its erosion, Department of Water Resources spokesman Chris Orrock said Sunday night.
Now, officials should be able to start assessing damage to the emergency spillway as it begins to dry. “They are going to dry out the emergency spillway area,” Countryman said. “They are going to start the repair work.”
This does not mean that the risk of catastrophic flooding has passed. Officials released water so quickly over the damaged main spillway that they may have further threatened its integrity, Countryman said.
A large section of concrete at the bottom of the spillway had already collapsed by Sunday, the initial cause of the emergency. As more of the main spillway collapses, it could threaten the spillway’s gates and force officials to stop releasing water into the main spillway, Countryman said. That would likely be catastrophic.
Orrock said Sunday night he did not know how much further damage was done to the main spillway by releasing water so quickly.
“I’m sure it’s going to be severe,” he said.
The morning will reveal how well the damaged, main spillway will hold up under such powerful flows, and whether it can be relied upon to handle that level of water through the rest of the rainy season, said Jay Lund, a civil engineering professor at UC Davis.
“The success of this strategy should be evident tomorrow morning after dawn,” he said.
Sunday night gridlock as Marysville residents evacuate
The frantic effort to evacuate Marysville had ground to a halt at B and 12th streets, the eastbound route to the Yuba foothills. By 8 p.m., hours after the first evacuation orders, a long ribbon of cars and trucks remained marooned at the hard right turn to higher ground.
Lisa and Francisco Esparza of Live Oak fled down Highway 99 to Yuba City, crossing the Feather River into Marysville. Now they were waiting in the long line for points east. Their stop, Grass Valley. They have no family there, they said, but no matter.
“We’re just going to get safe,” Lisa Esparza said.
For thousands in this area, battered in the 1960s, 1980s and 1990s by catastrophic flooding, they know this is no drill, motorists naming their destinations as if it were a local bus route: Browns Valley, Brownsville, Grass Valley.
“There’s a lot of gridlock through the city,” said Marysville Police Lt. Chris Sachs.
Still others were stranded for different reasons. Jennifer Neff of Marysville wandered through a Chevron parking lot, her gas light glowing, her phone on hold with roadside assistance.
Gas stations like this Chevron on B Street were closed, their pumps shut off, even for debit and credit cards.
“There’s nowhere to get gas,” Neff said. “I’ve called roadside assistance – I’m on hold with them now. Do we call the police?”
Later, a young boy ran to the pumps, getting the attention of a motorist.
“Is there gas?” he shouted.
“They’ve shut them down,” came her reply.
For Joseph Wright, Autumn Kaley and their friends, huddled with their belongings and their dogs, Koda and Dooders outside Marysville’s police station, the situation was more dire. They said they were among the 40 or so told to evacuate 14 Forward – temporary housing for this city’s homeless. With no transportation, they were told to use their feet to find somewhere safe.
“There was no plan – they just let us know about an hour ago,” Wright said about 7 p.m. “We’re plumb out of ideas. They told us to walk out of the city limits.”
“A hotel for us won’t be safe,” Kaley said. “If we can just get out of here – (somewhere) nice, warm and safe.”
– Darrell Smith in Marysville
At least nine Chico hotels are full
Butte County announced on Twitter that at least nine hotels in Chico are confirmed full:
- America’s Best
- Courtyard Marriott
- Haven Inn
- Heritage Inn
- Motel 6
- Oxford Suites
- Quality Inn
- Regency Inn
Beale Air Force Base opens roads to evacuees, offers shelter
Beale Air Force announced that it will allow residents to travel across the base to evacuate to higher ground. Drivers can enter at the Doolittle Gate off Hammonton Smartsville Road or Schneider Gate off North Beale Road. They will then exit via the Grass Valley gate.
The base also has opened a shelter for 400 people at the Harris Fitness Center. Evacuees should park at Dragon Town and then transfer to a registration area via bus. Call 530-634-8887 for more information.
Yuba City resident: ‘I think this panic is unnecessary.’
Darlene Tulumello, 52, an unemployed legal secretary in Yuba City, was parked at the gas station with her husband and two cats, trying to figure out where to go.
Just an hour before, she said, they had been doing their grocery shopping when the store announced that it was closing.
Tulumello said they might head to Colusa, though she wasn’t feeling the same sense of urgency to get out of town as the miles of cars backed up on the freeway. Just yesterday, she added, she had been thinking about sticking around at home.
“I think this panic is unnecessary,” Tulumello said. “You might as well sit back, have a beer and let fate take its course.”
Gail Agrifoglio, 67, a retired shipping forklift driver, was caravaning down to Fairfield with her son, sister and niece to stay with her nephew.
She was feeling chipper about the visit, despite the traffic, and had only packed a few pillows and a pair of clean clothes. She expected to return the next day.
“I’ll actually get to see some family,” she said.
After having to evacuate several times before, Agrifoglio said, she was used it. She wasn’t worried about losing anything — though she acknowledged she didn’t have any flood insurance for her home anyway.
“If it goes, it goes,” she said, a raspy laugh erupting.
Vila Smith, 51, had left her job at Wal-Mart and was headed to Sutter to her take care of her 78-year-old father, who refused to leave his house.
Smith said she felt scared, especially being away from her children, whom she had sent down to Sacramento for safety.
Before leaving town she had stopped at home to grab her son’s Bible, which he forgot. She said she didn’t grab anything for herself, except a few important documents like her birth certificate.
“It’s all replaceable,” she said. “Bodies are not.”
– Alexei Koseff in Yuba City
Colusa County Fairgrounds serving as a rest stop, not an overnight shelter
Officials at the Colusa County Fairgrounds are directing evacuees to a different site in Orland.
The Colusa site is a rest stop for travelers with water and restrooms. Contrary to earlier news reports, it is not an evacuation site.
About 100 people are gathered in the fairgrounds parking lot, many with dogs and trunks packed with clothes.
“Nobody has been upset,” said Jonathan Howard, the fairgrounds chief executive. “They’re all happy to have a place to stop.”
Angela Mason of Live Oak gathered her kids as soon as she heard an evacuation order, but had to leave a beloved pet that they could not fit in their van.
Her husband is staying behind for the time being, watching their house and Tommy the pig.
She and three of her children are resting at the Colusa County Fairgrounds while they make final plans for the night.
Mason, 44, evacuated her house during floods in 1997. She said she wasn’t too worried following news about the damaged Oroville Dam spillway, but instantly took the evacuation order seriously.
“I grabbed the kids, threw it all in a bag and said, ‘Let’s go,’” she said.
She’s confident her husband will be able to evacuate if he needs to, but Tommy would have to wait out a flood.
– Adam Ashton in Colusa
Chico evacuation center is full; additional shelter open at Neighborhood Church
Butte County announced at 7:40 p.m. that the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds evacuation center is full. Another shelter is available at the Neighborhood Church in Chico, 2801 Notre Dame Blvd.
Sacramento hotels filling with evacuees
Evacuees are reserving hotel rooms along Hwy. 99 and Interstate 5 in Sacramento near the airport. The Homewood Suites by Hilton started getting calls around 6 p.m., said Front Desk Agent Gao Hang. Twenty reservations were made within the hour in back-to-back phone calls.
“They didn’t care about the price at all because they just need a place to go,” she said. “It’s not just us.”
Two neighboring hotels are filling up as well, she said. The Homewood Suites is about 75 percent reserved so far.
Lake levels down, but risk remains
Oroville Lake depths are decreasing rapidly as officials release a huge amount of water from its main spillway.
Lake levels have fallen about one-half a foot in the last two hours and stand at 901.35 feet, about four-tenths of a foot above the level where water flows through the emergency spillway, state figures show.
At that pace, water should stop spilling over the emergency spillway within several hours, giving officials a chance to more fully assess erosion.
Falling depths do not mean the areas below the dam are safe. The emergency spillway is essentially part of the dam and the concern is that it will fail, something that could happen even if water stops flowing over its top.
Evacuations are widespread
More than 160,000 people in evacuation area
More than 162,000 residents in Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties were affected by Sunday night’s evacuation orders, census figures show.
Butte sheriff: Situation improving
State Department of Water Resources told Butte County Sheriff Kony Honea shortly after 6 p.m. that “the erosion that caused all this concern was not advancing as rapidly as they thought.”
“That’s a very good thing,” he said.