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
Officials say they're still releasing 100,000 cubic feet per second from the paved spillway. No water is going over the emergency spillway at this point.
"It's hard to look at a crystal ball and predict how it's going to evolve," said Kevin Lawson of Cal Fire.
The flow into the lake is roughly 37,000 cubic feet per second, so they're shedding a net 60,000 or so cubic feet per second.
They're hoping to drop 8 feet per day.
It's unclear if they'll hit the target of lowering the lake by 50 feet before the next rain hits. But they're expecting a smaller level of precipitation at a cooler temperature, so it may not run into the lake as quickly, giving them more time.
"We're going to deal with that as it comes in," said acting state Department of Water Resources Director Bill Croyle.
There were questions about problems with the emergency spillway, which began eroding instead of serving its function.
"I'm not sure anything went wrong," Croyle said. "This was a new, never-happened-before event."
When the press conference ended, Croyle left for an updated briefing on spillway conditions. They have not started dropping rocks from helicopters at this point, but they've been staging supplies.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea shot down rumors the evacuation could end Monday afternoon. They're working on a "repopulation" plan but there's no timeline.
"Getting those people home is important to me. But I have to be able to sleep at night knowing they're back in that area."
His department had to move 500 inmates from Butte to Alameda County jail during the evacuation. They're being held there for the time being.