Jim Urquhart / Reuters
Evacuation orders for nearly 200,000 people in danger of being flooded out by the tallest dam in the US were told they can return home, even as officials called for continued vigilance.
The emergency spillway holding back Lake Oroville in Northern California suffered severe erosion on Sunday, prompting fears that the structure would fail and setting off evacuation orders for low-lying communities below.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea on Tuesday said the evacuation orders were being reduced to evacuation warnings and told residents to be ready, especially with more rain on the way.
“This allows people to return to their homes, allows people to return to their businesses,” Honea said. “But we’re telling them they have to be vigilant, have to pay attention to what’s going on, and there’s the prospect that we could issue another evacuation order if circumstances change and risk increases.”
Officials had been releasing 100,000 cubic feet per second of water to draw the lake down by 50 feet and prevent a potentially massive wall of water from pouring into surrounding communities.