Water levels at the nation’s tallest dam dropped Sunday night, halting overflows down the Oroville Dam’s “severely eroded” emergency spillway, hours after nearly 200,000 California residents living downstream raced for safe ground after the California Department of Water Resources ordered an “immediate evacuation.” The evacuation order, following days of heavy rains across the drought-stricken state, warns downstream residents that new erosion spots detected over the weekend “could lead to a failure of the structure,” which would result in what California Fire incident commander Kevin Lawson said could be an uncontrolled release of a “30-foot wall of water” from man-made Lake Oroville. Residents of Oroville, a town of 16,000 people located roughly 150 miles northeast of San Francisco, were urged to head north, while other cities on the valley floor were told to evacuate to the east, south, or west. The dam’s primary spillway was destroyed by erosion earlier in the week, leaving the emergency spillway as the only mechanism to drain swelling Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir in California.
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