Screengrab via Peter Liu/Twitter

A damaged California dam is about to wreak havoc—and it’s all streaming live

It could send a 30-foot wall of water into nearby communities.


Phillip Tracy


Posted on Feb 13, 2017   Updated on May 25, 2021, 12:24 am CDT

The primary spillway for the tallest dam in the United States is on the verge of failing. If it does, it would send a 30-foot wall of water into nearby communities.

Around 200,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in several Northern California counties near the Oroville Dam after engineers spotted a hole in the concrete lip of its emergency spillway.

On Saturday, water levels rose so high it forced officials to use the emergency spillway for the first time. Things seemed to be working well until damage was detected Sunday afternoon amid record storms that swept through the area.

There are a number of livestreams on YouTube covering its expected collapse, though most of them have seized to operate.  

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The Department of Water Resources plans to continue discharging flows at a rate of 100,000 cubic feet per second, with the hope of lowering the reservoir level by 50 feet. 

“This damage could result in catastrophic failure of the auxiliary spillway,” the California Department of Water Resources said in a statement.

The following cities in Yuba County are under evacuation orders, the sheriff’s office spokesperson Leslie Caqrbah said:

  • Marysville
  • Hallwood
  • Ollivehurst
  • Plumas Lake
  • Wheatland

Engineers are expected to begin repairs on the spillway today in a race to fill the hole before a storm system comes later in the week. Officials have estimated it could cost $100 million to $200 million to repair the damage.

“I’m not going to lift the evacuation order until I have a better idea of what that means and what risk that poses,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said in a news conference Sunday.

Oroville residents still aren’t sure when they will be able to return to their homes. A list of evacuation centers can be found here

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include various YouTube videos of the livestreaming footage.

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*First Published: Feb 13, 2017, 12:32 pm CST