I don't want to hone in on Jappee's post, but this situation raises many important questions. I can't believe the lack of preparedness on the part
of our officials. Is our government that laissez-faire with our safety?
According to the
At least 130,000 people were asked to evacuate in Northern California after authorities warned an emergency spillway in the country's tallest
dam was in danger of failing Sunday and unleashing uncontrolled flood waters on towns below.
About 240km northeast of San Francisco, Lake Oroville is one of California's largest man-made lakes, and the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam is the
The link to the original article is above, but here are some salient points and my own comments:
1. According to officials, water began flowing over the emergency spillway on Saturday after heavy rainfall; however, as of early Sunday, they
insisted that the dam itself was structurally sound & assured residents that there was no threat to the public.
2. By 4pm on Sunday afternoon, residents in four towns were given an emergency evacuation order from their LOCAL authorities. They were told that the
spillway could fail in as little as an hour. This resulted in mass panic as more than 100,000 people frantically rushed to evacuate, causing
bumper-to-bumper traffic. In other words, a true doomsday scenario for those poor folks.
3. On Sunday night, the California Dept of Water Resources said that the lake levels had decreasing as they were releasing as much as 100,000 cubic
feet per second from the main, heavily damaged spillway to try to drain the lake, but, oh-well, water was still spilling over the dam. Can you smell a
bit of CYA in the air?
4. Engineers with the Department of Water Resources said shortly after 6pm that continued erosion to the spillway was not occurring as quickly as they
anticipated & their plan was to have helicopters drop large rocks into the crevasse in order to plug the hole. By the way, we're talking about a hole
196 feet wide and 29 feet deep - how many rocks do you think it would take to plug that monster? They could not estimate how long it would take, which
begs the question, which would happen first - would the large rocks plug the hole before the structure gave way? Fortunately, local law enforcement
didn't put much confidence behind that plan & felt it critical to initiate the evacuations. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said "We needed to get
people moving quickly to save lives if the worst-case scenario came into fruition.". All I can say is, thank you, Sheriff Honea, for putting the
residents you swore to serve and protect before anything else of a more political nature.
5. Although the emergency spillway was rated to handle 250,000 cubic feet per second, it began to show weakness as flows through the spillway peaked
at 12,600 cubic feet per second at 1am Sunday morning and were down to 8,000 cubic feet per second by midday. Wait a minute, I'm confused about the
timeline here unless the article is mistaken. If drainage began to show fragility at 1:00am early Sunday morning, why was the public told later
Sunday morning that the dam was safe & not a danger to the public? In reality, if the spillway failed, huge uncontrolled releases of water from Lake
Oroville could have had a cascading affect on the rivers and waterways into which it feeds, possibly resulting in a 30 foot wall of water threatening
the surrounding areas. Haven't our officials learned anything about the potential destructive power of water from Hurricane Katrina? Why was there no
emergency plan in place? Do other areas in close proximity to similar bodies of water have emergency plans in place or are they just naively trusting
our government officials?
6. At some point, the time of which is not indicated in the article, engineers admitted that they didn't know what had caused the cave-in (even
though they had originally stated that it was caused by heavy rainfalls earlier in the week), but a spokesman for the state Dept of Water Resources
said it appeared that the dam's main spillway had magically stopped crumbling, even though it was still being used for water releases. Are those
water releases at the 250,000, 12,600 or 8,000 cubic feet per second? Are all of these people still at risk for losing their houses & personal
Ok. So that was the AP article. So many inconsistencies. The article lists three different times when officials became aware of this situation. Was it
on Saturday when they noticed that water was flowing over the spillway? Was it on Sunday morning when they publicly announced that the public was in
no imminent danger, or was it earlier in the week when heavy rainfall caused the unexpected erosion, which chewed through the main spillway, sending
chunks of concrete flying & creating this monster hole? Are we to believe that structural engineers aren't capable of making any type of estimates as
to how quickly this erosion would continue to expand? Do you think that they were entirely forthcoming with the public about the potential danger? If
we can put aside the various discrepancies in the timeline & assume that they knew of the dangers, let's say even a day before residents were told
that the spillway could fail in just one hour, why did they wait so long to get those people out of there? I personally have doubts about the
timeline, but that begs the question as to why. Did this discovery happen earlier or later than they stated? Was it truly due to heavy rainfall alone
or was there negligence, or something even worse, involved? How is it possible that an emergency plan was not in existence for an area that is so
vital to California's economy? Taking out the human equation for a moment, this lake is a central piece of California's water delivery system. It
supplies water for agriculture in the Central Valley & residents & businesses in Southern California. How could they be so cavalier about a worst case
scenario in which a large chunk of California's economy is wiped out? These facts just don't make sense to me.
So, I just went looking for an update on the situation & came upon this CNN update
from three hours ago which states
that 188,000 people were evacuated when TWO spillways failed. I will admit that CNN gives a feasible reason for the spillway failures; after a long
period of drought, heavy rain and snow fell in the state this past year, resulting in this particular area being hit by 25" of rain since October,
when it's average yearly annual rainfall is 31". I can buy that explanation. But I still can't reconcile the timeline of when officials knew about
the danger, nor can I fathom the government official's lack of urgency when it came to area residents. How could there have been no contingency plan
in place? Lastly, from reading the CNN update, it baffles me that The California Dept of Fish & Wildlife began evacuating fish before evacuating
I'm pleased that I can end this very long post by saying that as of this morning, at 11:00am EST, they had drained enough lake water to prevent a
catastrophe from happening (for now), but this situation needs to open up a discussion about the safety of our waterways. What say you, ATS?