After Mass Evacuation in Oroville, PG&E Urges Customers: 'Make an Emergency Plan'

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The agency did not disclose the other three people's names.

Spicer called the eroded emergency spillway "a textbook example of why we need to pursue a major infrastructure package in congress". But the evacuation order remains in place. "We won't go back, until they tell us it's safe".

Helicopters are airlifting massive bags of rocks in northern California, attempting to use them to plug the damaged spillway of the Oroville dam.

As planned with raising lake level the water pours over a concrete weir into the emergency spillway, parallel to the main spillway, with a capacity of 15,000 cubic feet per second.

Danger from flooding at Oroville subsided on Monday, but Northern California is on track to mark its wettest winter on record, and the storm waters have created unexpected problems for a state, that has struggled with drought for years.

Unless the erosion of the spillway is dealt with, "what we're looking at is approximately a 30-foot wall of water", Kevin Lawson, deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said at a press conference that night. Too much water could cause heavy erosion and potentially unleash flooding and threaten nearby communities. State water officials slowed releases through that spillway after the water, looking like Niagara Falls, carved a section of hillside away toward the main face of the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam.

"I think that the warning that was given should have been taken with the utmost seriousness", said Bob Wright, an attorney at Friends of the River, which raised the issue along with the Sierra Club and South Yuba River Citizens League.

California Department of Water Resources Director William Croyle said yesterday that he was unfamiliar with the environmental groups' 2005 filings.

Obviously, the state did not upgrade the emergency spillway and, for whatever insane reason, they refused to reinforce the dam, endangering thousands of lives in the area.

"It is important to recognize that during a rare event with the emergency spillway flowing at its design capacity, spillway operations would not affect reservoir control or endanger the dam", wrote John Onderdonk, a FERC senior civil engineer in a July 27, 2006 memo to his managers.

In response, officials are releasing up to 100,000 cubic feet per second, up from 55,000 cubic feet per second, from the damaged main spillway in an effort to ease pressure on the emergency spillway before a failure occurs, according to The Sacramento Bee. Water then began spilling down the hillside. But with more storms on the horizon, crews raced to assess what happened and began dumping large boulders and sandbags into the spillway to prevent any more erosion. The cost of reinforcing the hillside was not immediately clear.

On Monday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered the the state water agency "to initiate immediate design of emergency fix to minimize further degradation of both the emergency spillway and the service spillway".