by Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse Blog:
The situation at the Oroville Dam has stabilized for the moment, but more storms are coming this week. When those storms arrive, will authorities be able to avoid the kind of catastrophic incident that almost happened over the weekend? As you will see below, it is being admitted that a collapse of the emergency spillway at Lake Oroville would have sent a “30-foot wall of water coming out of the lake” and into local communities. At one point authorities were concerned that such a collapse was imminent, and that is why they ordered the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people. But many are also concerned that more storms could ultimately cause a catastrophic failure of the infrastructure at the dam that would bring about a “worst case scenario”. According to the experts, if that were to occur we could potentially see a 100 foot tsunami of water wiping out entire cities.
At 770 feet tall, the Oroville Dam is 44 feet taller than the Hoover Dam. In fact, it is actually the tallest dam in the United States, and it is a crucial part of the network that supplies water for southern California and the key agricultural regions of the state.
The dam was built between 1962 and 1968, and that was during an era when great infrastructure projects were happening all over America. But now many of those great infrastructure projects are showing their age and are crumbling right in front of our eyes.
So how did we get to the point where entire towns were almost wiped out? The following is a pretty good summary of the events that we have witnessed so far…
The problems started last Tuesday, when a hole opened up in the Oroville Dam’s primary spillway. The collapse in this main, concrete-lined spillway led authorities to take an unprecedented step by the end of the week, as heavy storms mounted. On Saturday, the state water agency opened up the dam’s emergency spillway for the first time ever. Its collapse would have sent a “30-foot wall of water” crashing out of the lake reservoir, according to the Los Angeles Times. The emergency spillway, also described as the auxiliary spillway, is more or less a hill that drains down into the Feather River.
Fortunately the emergency measures that were taken over the weekend averted a major collapse of the emergency spillway, but it was a very close call.
Nearly 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate just in case, and needless to say this created a lot of panic and roads that were extremely clogged as local residents scrambled to get away from potential disaster…
“What was usually a 20-minute drive took two hours,” said Heather Sutton, 22, a Yuba Community College student. “It was bumper to bumper. … You can almost see the panic happening.”
Sutton recalled telling her friend before they evacuated that “we need to grab photos, anything that has sentimental value.” Everything else was left behind, she said.
The sudden evacuation panicked residents, who scrambled to get their belongings into cars and then grew angry as they sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic hours after the order was given.
And it is a very good thing that authorities did order the evacuation, because we came very, very close to seeing a “30-foot wall of water coming out of the lake”. The following comes from the L.A. Times…
The biggest concern was that a hillside that keeps water in Lake Oroville — California’s second largest reservoir — would suddenly crumble Sunday afternoon, threatening the lives of thousands of people by flooding communities downstream.
With Lake Oroville filled to the brim, such a collapse could have caused a “30-foot wall of water coming out of the lake,” Cal-Fire incident commander Kevin Lawson said at a Sunday night press conference.
Of course that isn’t the worst case scenario.
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