The rain has started to return in Northern California and will continue over the next few days, but officials aren't as concerned about the upcoming weather so much as the damage already done to the Oroville Dam's already compromised main spillway.
The risk of flooding has dropped substantially, but Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea warned residents Wednesday that they remain in "an emergency situation."
- Engineers are racing to lower the water level at Lake Oroville.
- These graphics explain what is happening at the Oroville Dam.
- Could the crisis have been prevented?
- Here is Butte County's emergency information website.
- PHOTOS: Crisis at the Oroville Dam
- VIDEOS: The Lake Oroville emergency explained | An evacuee waits to return home
A new storm system forecast for later this week put water officials on a race against time. Bill Croyle, the acting director of the state Department of Water Resources, said they planned 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.
The biggest concern was that a hillside that keeps water in Lake Oroville — California’s second largest reservoir — would suddenly crumble Sunday afternoon, threatening the lives of thousands of people by flooding communities downstream.
With Lake Oroville filled to the brim, such a collapse could have caused a “30-foot wall of water coming out of the lake,” Cal-Fire incident commander Kevin Lawson said at a Sunday night press conference.