Reading Progress: Nil

I have read almost nothing in the past few days, much less been able to blog; real life has been too exciting to allow for it.  On Sunday afternoon, the nearby town of Oroville was put under an evacuation order when officials realized that the reservoir's emergency spillway might fail--within the hour. 

Regular spillway broke and eroded the hillside

This situation had been developing all week, but all of a sudden it turned really dangerous.  Our family was perfectly safe; we live north, and the water would go south, so everyone was to evacuate north to our area.  As the evacuation order expanded further downriver, other people had to head south to Sacramento.  The best part of three counties was evacuated as the dam managers frantically tried to mitigate the danger.  Happily, the spillway did not fail, but we're all nervous; a lot of rain is coming in and it's possible this will all be replayed.  Everyone is back home now, but could have to leave again.

Rather than explain all the technical details here (which I could do; I know a lot more about that dam now than I did last week!) I'll just link you to this short video that summarizes the situation.  A map and diagrams are also helpful!

 Obviously I couldn't concentrate on Herodotus and Spenser; they were not a priority.  We spent our time either obsessively watching news or preparing to help out.  Cross your fingers and hope this all goes well.


  1. I don't blame you! And you have rain coming again this weekend. Hope they get this all under control before then.

    It feels like this is so commonplace in California. I am reminded of our famous mudslides. First come the rainless summers; then the devastating wildfires at the end of summer; and finally the monster mudslides of winter, devouring the burnt out areas and everything in their path.

    I was awake at 3 AM this morning wondering, "Where is that long-overdue earthquake that always strikes in the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping???" Ugh!!!

  2. Wow, Jean, I couldn't see how you could concentrate on reading even if you tried. I'll be watching what transpires. Hopefully you'll get much less rain than predicted.

    After watching the video, you wonder how often the spillways were inspected. You'd think the erosion would have given them a clue before now.

    Keep safe!

  3. Yeah, I did things like wash dishes and pace! There was a while there when it was quite possible that people would get killed. Oroville is a small city, but it's not easy to evacuate that quickly, and it's practically surrounded by the river, with just a couple of little highways going out.

    The erosion is the result of the water coming over the emergency spillway--it was just a regular hillside with a concrete wall at the top, so all that water pouring over dug channels and holes, and a large hole near the wall happened sooner than they expected. The regular spillway, which developed the first hole that made them slow down the water releases, was inspected a couple of times in the last few years and a crack was repaired.

    Really, the whole thing should have been better maintained. An unprotected hillside is not the best emergency backup, but the water management people didn't want to have to pay for upgrading. It's an endemic problem with California infrastructure.

  4. I've been following the Oroville dam situation as well as other stories involving high flood risk levels very closely lately. I can only imagine your concerns--it's so scary! I grew up in the Sacramento area, not too far from the Sacramento River, and we saw quite a bit of flooding from time to time. The dam situation is even worse in many ways, affecting so many more people. Hopefully the repairs made will hold through this next storm. Something really needs to be done though about upgrading and fixing problems like this. We cannot wait until a disaster happens to deal with it. But that seems to be the way things work . . . Anyhow, I'm thinking of you.

  5. Thanks. My hope is that this will serve as a wake-up call to Brown and co. that we have to pay attention to maintenance. He's trying to spend a kajillion dollars on sexy new projects without taking care of what we've got.


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