Disaster Deferred: Some Local Rescuers at Oroville Dam Told to Go Home But Be Prepared to Come Back

Oroville Dam https://twitter.com/CHPCommissioner

Water pours over the damaged spillway of the Oroville Dam today. To the left of the spillway near the lake can be seen the mostly dewatered and damaged auxiliary or emergency spillway. The hole that is developing in that area to the left was what prompted emergency evacuations yesterday. [Photo from the California Highway Patrol commissioner]

While millions of people watched online and on television yesterday, nearly 200,000 residents below the Oroville Dam Auxiliary Spillway were evacuated in just a few hours because authorities feared a developing hole would release a wall of water from the lake behind the dam. (For comparison, the number of people evacuated is more than the entire combined populations of Humboldt, Trinity and Del Norte Counties.)

As locals were fleeing on crowded freeways, thousands of emergency personnel from various agencies and nonprofits prepared to rush into the area to assist with everything from rescue to shelters. But, hundreds of rescuers sent to Oroville were sent back home this morning.

Cal Fire’s Humboldt/Del Norte Unit responded to the call for help. According to a tweet sent out this morning, the unit sent a strike team consisting of “engines, crews, dozer, [a] copter.” We’ve been unable to reach Cal Fire to confirm if this team returned home but we were able to talk to Diana Totten, a Captain with Briceland Fire and with Southern Humboldt Community Technical Rescue.

Diana Totten [Photo by Kim Sallaway]

Totten said that she responded to the scene last night at the request of California’s Office of Emergency Services. She said she was told, “I would be managing a group or a division at Oroville Dam.”

When she arrived, she attended an orientation meeting and learned that “during the night a lot of resources were sent for…[For instance,] there were well over a dozen swift water rescue teams,” she said. “There were engine crews and inmate crews.”

Late last night, efforts to drop the water level in the dam, lowered the lake water below the Auxiliary Spillway. As the water level fell below the lip of the spillway, the erosion slowed. A plan to pack the hole with large rocks dropped by helicopters was revealed. Though evacuees weren’t allowed to return home, officials at last night’s conference seemed cautiously hopeful though worried about storms set to roll across the area Wednesday.

Totten said she, along with many others, were thus “sent home but might have to come back” after the coming storm dumps as much as eight inches of rain in the nearby foothills.

At this point, Totten said, many resources have been released to return home. “We’re standing by to see what is going to happen next,” she explained. “Everyone is kind of ready for whatever may happen but we aren’t on an official standby.”


Earlier Chapter: Oroville Dam Spillway Failing; Evacuations Ordered



  • Total scam and hype. The dam isnt failing it is just the overflow. Just another bs stunt to keep lake levels lower. Got to keep this drought going to keep regs, penalties and power. They want full control of your water, food, and the air you exhale.

    • throttlebro, I completely disagree with what you’re saying. It’s eroding the side of the mountain where the dam’s foundation is embedded. From aerial views it looks pretty bad. If they don’t somehow slow the rate of water needed to come out of the lake it could remove enough soil and rock to eventually cause the whole dam to fail.

      • I would love to see the flow rates leading up to the overflow storm. A spillway that has never been used before, that should have had a concrete base, which many engineers had argued was unreliable years ago…… This is beyond poor water management. Absolutely intentional.

        • Funny, flow rates were visible, and are visible, updated every frikin hour. I was watching since wed.


          Only thing I can see you said was that this was a scam and hype. The onus of proof does not fall on those listening to your rant, if your rant contains no proof – than its just a rant.

          If u have a specific question, ill answer it.

          • Funny how those frickin flow rates (in your link) only go back 12 hours. This is completely worthless data per my question/rant. I want to see flow rates leading into the storm. This is an emergency overflow according to the news media. Why are these people taking the risk of utilizing an untested “Emergency Overflow” during a storm. If they had decreased exiting flow rates with little capacity left in the resivoir, that is obvious mismanagement. Are these people stupid? No, but the same people that put these managers and engineers in place have a vested interest in an existing drought. Money and power…. Pooof. Gone with one good winter.
            Since you have been watching the flow rates since wed. (even though it is during and not pre storm which was my quandry), maybe you could tell me what the water level was, and the delta between inflow and outflow.

        • The emergency spillway was used, for the first time since 1968, b/c of the concrete failure in the main spillway ( all of the whitewater) , coupled with heavy rains. So they shut off the main flow to assess the concrete, creating spillover in the emergency area. It eroded more quickly than expected. So they let water run down the concrete spillway again. Seems like sound decisions to me.

          Ruth lake dam has a similar design for its emergency spillway, btw.

    • Preach it ThroBottle, you’re spot on!

  • Honeydew Bridge Chump

    Shocked that marijuana growers and their bad energy could nearly collapse the second largest water storage in the state.

    Enough is enough…

  • No big deal bro, looks just like the road I drove this morning. Welcome to the wild west.

  • Prove one thing that I said is false. And REALY, my name is throttlebro. Its Russian.

  • This ordeal with the Oroville Dam makes me wonder about the integrity of the dams on the Eel.

    If the state can screw up, like they obviously have, on the biggest dam they control … Well that doesn’t give me good feelings about the dams above me.

  • Wow, you folks are cynical. There are lots of folks displaced, and many people are working together to get through this. If you can’t help at all, at least stay positive and try to act decent. I know it’s hard for you stoners to be grown up, and the stress of of staying high all the time until you can go to the clinic for some pain pills and Valium to mix with your meth
    is intense at times, but be an adult. If you can’t help and stay positive, go do some more drugs and shut the hell up.

    Thank you!

  • What’s halarious is that 23 million liberals drink from that water source.
    Imagine if it failed.

  • Trump can make it better again

  • Check out the erosion at the base of the spillway,and we thought we’ve got problems. The base of that mountain is going to need some serious attention. California break out some more money.

  • That was a dam close one

  • Thank you Captain Totten and others who without hesitation, headed right toward what might have been a flood of truly biblical proportions.

    Here’s a video statement released from the Governor about his reaction to the dam crisis:

  • They’ve known about the weak spot for over 11 years, but we were too busy playing propaganda wars and let it slip through our powers of holding them accountable. Magically, as it often happens, they fear monger about all dams.
    Ever pay attention to the end goal of comprehensive planning schemes? No more rural living for you. We will all be forced to pay outrageous rents in cities.

    There are solid reasons why we are supposed to keep watch over the govenments, not the people.

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