Dam Evacuation Gridlock Reveals Californians’ Inability to Escape Crises
Nearly 200,000 people remained under evacuation orders Monday as California authorities try to fix erosion of the emergency spillway at the nation’s tallest dam that could unleash uncontrolled flood waters if it fails.
About 150 miles northeast of San Francisco, Lake Oroville – one of California’s largest man-made lakes – had water levels so high that an emergency spillway was used Saturday for the first time in almost 50 years.
The evacuation was ordered Sunday afternoon after engineers spotted a hole on the concrete lip of the secondary spillway for the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam and told authorities that it could fail within the hour.
Panicked and angry residents sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic hours after the evacuation order was given.
Raj Gill was managing a Shell station where anxious motorists got gas and snacks while waiting for gridlocked traffic to clear. His boss told him to close the station and flee himself, but he stayed open to feed a steady line of customers.