Oroville dam spillway expected to collapse

UPDATE: Drone video over spillway added.

Collapse of emergency spillway expected, evacuation ordered


Department of Water Resources officials say they expect the emergency spillway at Oroville Dam to fail, and say residents should evacuate northward.

The emergency spillway suffered erosion and could fail, according to DWR. If that happens, the water behind that barrier will comedown the hill and down the river.

Flow through the broken main spillway was increased to 100,000 cubic feet per second in an effort to lower the water level in the lake more rapidly.

The Butte County Sheriff’s Office reports helicopters will be depositing rock-filled containers to strengthen the potential failure point.

Bud Englund, a public information officer for the incident, said downtown Oroville and low-lying areas, including residents along the Feather River from Oroville to Gridley, are being evacuated.

Reporter Andre Byik said Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol have converted the southbound lanes of Highway 70 into northbound lanes to expedite the evacuation. Traffic there is still nearly gridlocked.

An evacuation center has been set up at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico. Black Butte Lake west of Orland has also opened up the Buckhorn Campground to evacuees.

Emergency operations centers as far south of Sacramento have been notified, Englund said.

Evacuation orders have also been made in Yuba and Sutter counties.

From ChicoER.com

My local newspaper publishes a scathing editorial of DWR idiocy and mismanagement

Live video here: https://www.facebook.com/KCRA3/videos/10155026580966514/

UPDATE: DWR issued this statement.n their track record so far…not sure its all that reassuring.


Earlier today, before erosion of the emergency spillway began

OROVILLE DAM, Calif. – The Department of Water Resources has provided an explanation as to why the mandatory immediate evacuations in Oroville and areas downstream are occurring. The concern is that erosion at the head of the emergency/auxiliary spillway issued evacuation orders for residents. The concern is that erosion at the head of the emergency spillway threatens to undermine the concrete weir and allow large, uncontrolled releases of water from Lake Oroville. Those potential flows could exceed the capacity of downstream channels.

To avert more erosion at the top of the emergency/auxiliary spillway, DWR doubled the flow down its main spillway from 55,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) to 100,000 cfs. The next several hours will be crucial in determining whether the concrete structure at the head of the auxiliary spillway remains intact and prevents larger, uncontrolled flows.

Current flows are contained with downstream channels.

Flow over the auxiliary spillway weir began Saturday morning and has slowed considerably. DWR officials expect that flow to stop entirely soon, according to a press release sent at 6:11 P.M. Sunday. This would reduce the erosion on the downstream side of the structure.

DWR officials stress that Oroville Dam itself is sound and is a separate structure from the emergency/auxiliary spillway.

Source: http://www.water.ca.gov/news/newsreleases/2017/021217-pm_release_oroville_evacuation.pdf

UPDATE: Live view from the State Emergency Operations Center

UPDATE: Drne video shot earlier today:

432 thoughts on “Oroville dam spillway expected to collapse

    • Dear God. Do you think maybe next time there’s a drought in Cali they’ll use the opportunity to make the dams bigger and stronger rather than wringing their hands about how it’ll never rain or snow again?
      When the water level drops, it’s time to start reinforcing/build higher because it’s only going to rise up again.

      • Phil, that’s far too obvious for those of us who live in the real world. If you ‘think’ like a greenie, your negligence and stupidity will not be your fault, but that of climate change, global warming, Donald Trump or whatever.

      • “Climate Change”, especially the variety taught in California, create such a brainwashed following they have no clue what needs to be done.
        For ample evidence, just consider the type of leaders those idiots in California have elected–they also have no idea what needs to be done or when.
        Maybe once they see a huge swath of their state washed away, they’ll come to the realization that CO2 doesn’t equal climate. But by taking that irrational position they now believe a drought is normal and continuous.
        I saw the destruction that resulted from the Teton Dam failure and it was massive. Plus, the reservoir drained by that failure was much smaller than the Oroville reservoir.
        Heaven help California.

      • Sorry, there’s no money for things like that. We have to pay for illegal immigrants to get free tuition, for inmate sex change operations, Eric Holder’s consulting services on how to undermine the federal gov’t, Climate change awareness programs, etc. But don’t worry, there will be yet another emergency one time tax increase proposition that will pass with 70% support, that somehow turns into a permanent tax increase, followed by yet another proposed tax increase, rinse and repeat.

      • Climate change models running on super computers. Karl et.al. will fake data bust the flood pause away.

      • They should have heaped riprap on the downstream side of the alt-spillway as a dispersant of fluvial energy. But no, they waited for the dang thing to fill all the way up. A riprap pile with its interstices filled with smaller cobbles would have (Not “Could” have) dispersed the erosive power of the overtop with a minimum of expenditure. I’m not sure why they clearcut the hillside below…I guess to prevent the influx of floating debris into the Weir Diversion downstream? Vegetation would act as a deterrent to erosion….wouldn’t it?

      • And the rest of the country has to pay for arrogance and need for an over populated state that thinks they know everything
        Hope the republicans get out before it breaks the rest hope they can swim

      • Well just wait till the snow thaw starts, and then watch them scramble. There is NO way to get water out of lake Oroville fast enough to handle the coming snow melt, and if the lake was already empty, it will still probably fill to overflowing.
        Can you see in the video just HOW HIGH the lake rim is ABOVE the regular spillway, which now has NO WAY to release water fast enough.
        If you build it high, the resulting flood will just be that much worse.
        Those trucks parked on there (four of them) is probably what cracked the paper thin cement floor whenever that was taken, and the bottom has been busted ever since, because that’s exactly where the hole is, and as you can see through the hole, there is absolutely nothing underneath supporting that concrete and chicken wire flimsy skin. The hole is exactly where the damage was that they were looking at back whenever those trucks were parked there.

      • I recall a flood in Australia not too many years ago, attributed to AGW faithful never imagining a Climate Disruption Drought might end on it’s own, so they left the reservoirs over filled before the deluge started. They consistently fail too understand that things tend to even out; too dry one season means too wet in another.

      • They simply didn’t learn the lesson taught by the story of Joseph and the Pharaohs. Joseph instructed the Pharaoh that the dream meant 7 years of abundance will be followed by 7 years of famine and to stockpile ½ of the food produced during the abundant times to get through the lean years.
        California should have followed the example and updated water resource infrastructure during the Drought influenced lean times to prepare for the El Nino influenced abundant times.
        After all, The Climate is never in a steady state

      • George those people in the four trucks were inspecting seepage through the spillway. This is what would have caused the failure. Seepage resulting in piping failure beneath the concrete.

    • I wrote the following last Friday – “probably an erosion problem – to be safe, better look for more…” – this still looks correct.
      Control of erosion at Oroville dam is the key task, until the situation is stabilized – then implement a longer term solution (better spillways?).
      My Masters’ thesis described case studies of large mine slope failures (millions of cubic metres) and how we controlled them. We stabilized some large failures, and in other cases safely evacuated personnel when failure was inevitable.
      The big difference is that all of my thesis cases were deep-seated failures and none were water-retaining structures. It was possible to stabilize some slides through the placement of large toe berms. In other cases, when the failure was not controllable, the slide was slow and was safely managed.
      It is a very different situation when a water retaining structure is involved. Later in my career, we did place a toe berm to stabilize a large dam, after early movement was detected. In our case, there was zero overflow.
      Oroville dam to date is apparently a shallow erosion problem, not a deep-seated failure. Normally we monitor the micro-movements of large dam structures to check for deep-seated movements. This can be done remotely, once the instrumentation is in place. Is this being done?
      Regards, Allan
      Allan M.R. MacRae wrote on February 10, 2017 at 3:20 am
      Lindsay – Yup – probably an erosion problem – to be safe, better look for more…
      Regards, Allan M. Eng. (Geotech.)

  1. Might just be my system but your new post message comes in my outlook at about a 200 point font see below

  2. Engineering, especially Civil Engineering, requires compromises. Safety margins are expensive, and the need for a particular margin is unpredictable. Engineering a 1 sigma margin is much less expensive than a 2 sigma margin, but the lower the margin or safety the more likely an eventual failure may destroy the system. Standard industrial practice now recommends a 6 Sigma design to reduce failure chances to 1 in a million, but on a civil engineering project a 6 sigma reliability is prohibitively expensive.

      Why mandatory 50% solar/wind by 2030 for unmeasureable reduction in “climate change” by 2300 –
      BUT no planning to natural weather extremes?.
      Natural and Human Factors in Recent Central Valley Floods, ROXANE FRIDIRICI

      Widespread and destructive flooding occurred in 1986 and 1997 along rivers flowing into California’s Central Valley . . .
      On December 26, 1996, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation started releasing water at Folsom Dam on the American River. Maximum outflow peaked at 115,000 cfs, the channels’ design capacity, on January
      2. The heaviest precipitation fell over the Feather River Basin, rather than the American River Basin, and this proved to be an important factor in Folsom Dam releases remaining below channel capacities (CLAC 1997). The brunt of the storm dropped approximately 15 inches of rain in the Oroville area. The DWR warned that releases from Lake Oroville could exceed channel capacity, threatening major downstream flooding. Inflow peaked at 277,000 cfs on January 1. Peak outflow was maintained at 160,000 cfs, utilizing maximum storage, but avoiding uncontrolled spillway releases that would flood downstream communities.

      Did that 160000 cfs outflow cause the damage we now see?
      Why no preparation for the full 277,000 including over the emergency overflow????

        • “Models predict up to 6C of warming…”
          OH, FFS!
          Mosher, your computer games models – unlike REAL models used in engineering – aren’t worth a cup of warm spit.
          It’s because of a’holes like Moonbeam taking notice of jumped-up amateur scientists like you and your NOAA buddies with your silly computer games producing utter BS like predicting AGW and endless droughts and using it as an excuse for all sorts of phantasmagorical buffoonery like spending all the taxpayer’s money on virtue signalling idiocy like transgender toilet signage to make themselves feel good that bad stuff like this takes place.
          Go and take up a less pernicious hobby like stamp collecting , why don’t you?

      • Indeed, I saw on one of video press conferences that they had previously let 160,000 cfs through the regular spillway, yet now they are only letting 56000 cfs . WHY?
        Yesterday I saw another where they said they are not using the hydro-generator to add extra outflow due to some technical problem and apparently it was not designed to be able to allow water through without the generator working.
        Now someone downstream needs to ask if this lack of attention and funding is due to the fact that hydro is NOT classed as “renewable” in the US and thus is not benefiting from high tariffs paid of other renewable power.
        Best get out of the other side of this situation first but serious questions need to be asked about lack of maintenance at the dam and how this relates to the stupid policy which pretends that hydro is not renewable energy.

      • “Models predict up to 6C of warming…”
        You have got to stop paying those male escorts, Mosh.
        Unless you are trying to sell them a used car.

      • “Models predict up to 6C of warming…”
        So say the people that faked data to remove a 20 year pause.
        Get that crap outta here…

      • Seriously, Steven Mosher, get a grip. This is not a flight of fancy. This is a real, catastrophic failure. Your people’s delusions have resulted in genuine harm. How much more will we have to endure before you wake from your stupor?

      • The Governor chose to listen to his Pharaohesq soothsayers (ala Michael Mann et. al.) who whisper in his ear things like “this is the new normal state” and “California will be in perpetual drought” rather than take advantage of the lean time to make much needed repairs to the states water storage system infrastructure.

    • Oroville Dam Design Considerations

      Changes now being considered for Oroville’s flood storage rules provide a striking contrast to adjustments at Folsom. The 1986 flood showed that Oroville dam was more than adequate to handle design floods. To increase their supply capacity, SWP managers have asked the Corps of Engineers to allow more rapid fill of the flood reservation in the spring to increase the probability of reaching full reservoir capacity each year.

      Were these changes made to increase the supply capacity???

    • To fully address the historical max flow they needed a spillway that would handle 330000 cfs. The broken spillway was rated for 150000cfs. So they probably needed two spillways all along. The emergency spillway is just a bathtub ring that will erode it’s downhill surface the more it is used and that is what prompted today’s evacuation of 160000+ people.

    • Only 6 sigma? Nuke plants, including safety related civil structures are designed to higher standards.

    • I hope to shout; safety margins are expensive.
      Look what happens when you have NO safety margins.
      This whole concrete skin was sitting on nothing more substantial that dirt blowing around in the wind.
      All that the rebar did to this structure was to increase its weight to ensure that it would crack.
      Take a King size bed sheet, and squeegee all over it about a mm thick layer of pancake mix.
      Leave it to dry out, and then set the whole sheet reinforced pancake up on four chairs, one at each corner of the sheet.
      There you have a model of what the Oroville Spillway is.
      And after you admire your cheffmanship; why not invite the neighborhood kids over to use it as a trampoline,

  3. Looks like the damaged concrete spillway can flow about 5x-8x the max flow overtopping the emergency spillway.
    If the emergency spillway causes the dam to fail, then it will be fairly obvious that the disaster would be the result of the hours operators spent standing in the closed concrete spillway wringing their hands and staring at their navels, and subsequently operating that system at partial capacity. Lack of maintenance combined with poor management and control.

      • It looks like the DWR came within a gnat’s a** of killing 100,000 or so folks last night. And the dam is not safe yet. A wall of water is serious business. The state needs to shelve a few multi-billion dollar “fun” projects and take care of the basics for a few years.
        There is apparently very little elevation delta between the top of the concrete portion of the emergency spillway and the mostly earthen portion out toward the parking lot. If water gets a bit too high (and it did) then erosion begins immediately out near the parking area. That whole area past the concrete structure will require a means to prevent subsoil water migration (sheet piling), and the elevation increased 5 or 6 feet at least. As was mentioned earlier, the concrete portion will require an extended concrete skirt on grade downstream and a wedge of boulders and smaller stones backfilled against the concrete emergency spillway so as to reduce the energy of the outflow. Then fix the da** main spillway and improve the generation system so it can be used during high water conditions.
        If that is not too much to ask before you kill a few hundred thousand folks, DWR.

      • The washout gully directly under your arrow and VERY near the base of the concrete is what has my concern. To me, that is the critical weakness that could cause a catastrophic release of water.

  4. The good part is that the erosion is supposedly slowing for now, after they opened the main spillway back up to full volume. Unfortunately, that means the main spillway is going to fall apart even faster.
    The bad part is that, even if they manage to stabilize it for now, the next storm hits on Wednesday – and is supposed to dump four or five inches of rain on the area over the next few days.

  5. I stand corrected by the facts. Failure of the Oro Dam emergency structure will no longer surprise me. I hope everyone gets out safely.

    • As the young woman says, a fluid situation in deed….
      Super serious and hope no folks get hurt but really …… the media at times
      Also note elsewhere they’re dropping rock to reinforce the overflow – wonder if they’re trying to slow the erosion at the spillway failure too?

  6. Failure to Prepare: Was this due to a “Permanent Drought” Global Warming Mentality?
    Why no systematic evaluation of all possible failures over all possible natural weather systems?
    Why no modeling of the emergency spillway overflow? Is not California home to Silicon Valley and modeling?
    Why no testing of the emergency spillway overflow?
    Consider the catastrophic consequences of communist China’s central planning and its coverup:
    The Forgotten Legacy of the Banqiao Dam Collapse

    In 1975, after a period of rapid dam development, a perfect storm of factors came together to topple Henan Province’s Banqiao Dam and kill an estimated 171,000 people. Today, on the cusp of another dam-building binge, some worry that factors which led to Banqiao’s collapse are re-emerging.

    Will we suffer such consequences from today’s lemming drive to towards centrally planned mitigation of “climate change”? (aka “catastrophic majority anthropogenic global warming”).
    Rather than the most cost effective and prudent adaptation?
    Demand thorough verified and validated climate models with a thorough exhaustive evaluation of ALL factors, especially the still very little known natural weather variations!
    NASA era Apollo scientists and engineers were forbidden from using unvalidated models.
    Such engineers formed The Right Climate Stuff
    They prepared a validated model for political planning. See:
    Executive Summary, Bounding GHG Climate Sensitivity for use in Regulatory Decisions February 2014
    Bounding GHG Climate Sensitivity for use in Regulatory Decisions February 2014
    Don’t accept platitudes and excuses until it is too late!

      • Where there is a will there is a way!

        “while the six turbines combined utilize a flow of 16,950 cubic feet per second (480 m3/s) at maximum generation.[43”

        Any engineer could easily see that all you have to do is stop the flow through the hydropower and stop normal spillway flow. That would cause the river inflow to eventually flow over the emergency outflow. Politics overriding prudence. Ref: “Section 2: Proposed Action and Alternatives”. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Oroville Facilities Project. Butte County, California. pp. 13–42. Retrieved April 2, 2012.

    • Climate Persistence extremes about 200% of Conventional statistics
      Conventional “Markov” statistics very strongly UNDERESTIMATE long term fluctuations known as “Hurst Kolmogorov dynamics” by about a factor of 2 or more. See:
      Hurst-Kolmogorov dynamics and uncertainty, Demetris Koutsoyiannis
      Much of the current panic over “extreme weather” due to “climate change” is but unrecognized climate persistence or realistic variations in weather.
      See further presentations and papers on Hurst Kolmogorov dynamics

    • (cough) Did you say, tgm, that Jerry-Resist-the-Rest-of-America- Brown is calling for help?
      President Trump: Hello?
      Brown: Help! Help!
      Trump: I think you have the wrong number. This is the number for the United States of America. Call your own federal government.
      Brown: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
      Trump: Yeah, that sounds about right. CAaaa — naaaaa– daaaaaaaa, specifically, Quebec. Your little climate buddies. Bye now! *click*
      Brown: Hello? Silicon Valley? Can you, like, crank up the windpower? ….. Yes!!!!! NOW!!! Turn the velospaters, the jammerind-thingies that… oh, you know! like the propeller on a boat! Just AIM THEM ALL AT OROVILLE. We can BLOW this water with windpower. We’ll show the world that California LEADS THE WORLD!!!! ……. Hello?………………Hello???………………………… Hm. {hangs up phone} NOW who do I call
      Mexico: Hello?
      Brown: Hola, amigoy! Hey, I mean hoy. Hoive, HAVE, I got a deal for you, hambray ….

      • The irony of this moment is epic but it’s just another example of how citizens are harmed by incompetent politicians.

      • Indeed, Richard G. And, of course, that dialogue above was fun (and, sadly, reflects reality), we pro-free markets, private property, and personal liberty Americans will not turn a deaf ear to California (over 66% of whom do NOT support sanctuary anything or defying the IRS, etc.).
        The actual dialogue would run parallel to this:
        Dad: Hello?
        Son: Dad, ……… I, uh, I need a ride home.
        Dad: Things gettin’ kinda of wild over there at Grandma and Grandpa’s?
        Son: Dad. I don’ feelverygoo…. Ifeel…… kinuh sick. Jus’ come, okay? I’m at……… the Chevron stashun in Orofille.
        Dad: So. You went to that party even though we told you not to, didn’t you. Get your “really, really, good friend” Jerry to give you a ride home.
        Son: Jerry jus’ drovinnoo the swamp.
        Dad: (heavy sigh) Okay. I’m on my way. I’m just glad you’re alright. *click* {mutter, mutter, growl} I told him and TOLD him that Jerry was no good. Would he listen? NoooOOOOoo. “Jerry’s my best friend. If he says it’s cool then –” ………….. aaaa, whatever. This is what family is for. {starts his Chevy truck and backs out of the driveway}

      • And of course there will be consequences. Dad and Mom will make a condition of living in their home, “No more participating in Jerry’s schemes, such as helping criminals hide inside the church and letting the air out of the tires of IRS official vehicles and taking money from Maria the nurse and Joe the plumber to fund Big Wind and Loudmouth Solar, Inc., etc., etc..”

      • Your really couldn’t make this stuff up! Brown begging for help from “the Nazi” after his states politicians have led the way in bombastic statements in defiance of the Trump administration enforcing Federal Law and the violence at Berzerkly!
        Should conditions for aid be attached? They won’t be of course but it’s kind of nice to think about it.

      • “They won’t be of course but it’s kind of nice to think about it.”
        I wouldn’t bet on that. Trump is an expert at making deals, after all.

      • No Janice you have it all rong.
        We Californians are wishing to secede from the USA. We are far too embarrassed to even associate with people as smart as Americans. But Jerry Brown and Joan Baez will still be able to make pretty music, even after Oroville dam fails.
        Ooops !
        I forgot; it already has failed.

  7. As the primary spillway continues to deteriorate, especially now that re-upped the outflow to ease pressure on the emergency spillway, the erosion near the base is slowly working its way towards the dam….
    There also is a HUGE wall above it that does not look like solid rock. If this wall collapses I hope it does not compromise the integrity of the dam.
    I was waiting for someone to ask about this at the multi-agency press conference but no one did.

    • A cutback is occurring and will eat its way back until it reaches …….. same thing with the emergency spillway. Both spillways will cut back and start to eat away at that corner of the dam itself. I hope I am wrong.

  8. I find it amazing that so many American bridges, roads, and now dams collapse. You guys must have a very low standard for construction. (And for me, I am a civil designer in Australia).

    • That’s because we have more than two of them. 🙂 And by the way the dam is not failing or expected to. A lot of water may go down stream but not the whole reservoir.

    • Greg, Not so much. I live in both countries and they both have similar standards as well as similar dickheads in government and both have “socially concerned citizens”. The US has it’s issues but I’ve often though governing OZ to similar to herding cats.

    • Greg, I remember reading about a dam collapsing in Australia not too many years back. And for pretty much the same reason.

  9. This is reminiscent of the total failure of government agencies in Brisbane, Australia in 2011. After a long drought, the government of the day had bought into the hype that climate change meant the drought would be permanent. They spent $1 billion on a desalination plant and tried to implement permanent water restrictions. When the (forecasted) monsoon rains started to fall, and heavily, the government sat on its hands and let the main flood mitigation dam fill up over 100% – valuing the water for this economic value instead of operating the dam to the flood manual. The dam is supposed to even out flow down the river and prevent flooding. But they let it buid up wanting to hang onto the water. Eventually, fearing an overtop, they let the main floodgates open and intentionally flooded the 3rd largest city /urban area in Australia. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010–11_Queensland_floods#Brisbane_River_catchment
    The current idiocy in Australia is that major cities are suffering from brown outs and blackouts because of the demolition of coal fired power stations. The same politicians who congratulated themselves on destroying the power generation capability and now searching for the guilty parties as seasonal summer heat dominates the eastern states and the population reaches for their air conditioners.
    Until dams and power stations are returned to engineers and not social policy this will be an increasing trend. And the public stands by frustrated wondering when will the idiocy stop. Young people are being brought up thinking that dams fail and power stops – just the way it is and nothing can be done. Until they start experiencing what it is like to be at mercy of the elements the message is not getting through.

      • Yeah, Little Government screws up, too. Hard to forget how Katrina made the lack of maintenance of the flood walls. That was due to similar needs to divert money from infrastructure to politicians pockets, er, I mean new useless projects (windmills, bullet trains, solar plants).

    • brc
      You are correct. The error with the Wivenhoe Dam management was not to let the extra water go earlier enough, so the discharge could be controlled. It appears the same thing has happened here. ( Ironically this dam / lake is about the same size as the Wivenhoe)
      I hope those responsible for any other dams in California and elsewhere wake up start discharging water a lot earlier.

    • It didn’t help that the Greens held up any construction of other dams nearby that could have helped aver the disaster.
      The Greens have blood on their hands in my opinion,and should be treated as the murderous scum they are.

      • yup
        in the driest continent we have utter sh*t for brains greentards blocking dams
        they need to have to live IN the areas they deprive

    • blc – you nailed it. Dams must NEVER be overtopped. Early release of water is paramount. Drought mentality prevented “wasting” water by spilling it. It may be unrecoverable now if there is actual overtopping of the e-spill. Time and flow rate overtopping e-spill will determine time to failure. Humans willingly gave control of the dam to nature. GK

  10. From above-cited Chico newspaper article:

    The DWR can argue all day that this was an unforeseen and unpreventable act of nature ….

    (http://www.chicoer.com/opinion/20170211/editorial-oroville-dam-crisis-a-failure-on-many-levels )
    No, they can’t. They cannot argue that this scenario was not “reasonably foreseeable at the time the dam was built.” Now, if Mt. Shasta exploded like Mt. St. Helens did in 1980, that event would excuse the state from liability in Negligence. This rain event was well within the possibilities which would be foreseen by a reasonably prudent dam builder (here, the State of California is the “dam builder” — the engineers they hired, who no doubt told the state all the relevant facts, are not to blame (unless they lied which I seriously doubt)).
    In short, such a scenario was well within the contemplation of the Defendant (as the State of CA most certainly will be if anyone suffers an injury who wants to be made whole) at the time the dam was made.
    I do not fault the managers of the dam. They do their best within parameters/budgets set by –> Sacramento.
    May God come to your aid, dear Oroville area residents.
    Praying for you,

    • Further: The State of CA also cannot argue out of following a reasonably prudent maintenance/repair/water-release regimen.

    • Janice
      “Mt. Shasta exploded like Mt. St. Helens did in 1980”
      How often to expect that to happen? There are design criteria for such evaluations.
      I have anti-nuke friends who moved up from Cali and bought a house on debris from the last major Mt Rainier eruption nut worry about the nuke plant 200 miles up wind on the other side of the mountains. Clueless.
      We just bought property in a tsunami evacuation zone.
      It is a dangerous world. I have no expectation that goverment will protect me from all risk. Practice a fire drill today. Be responsible for yourself and your family.

    • No, they can’t. They cannot argue that this scenario was not “reasonably foreseeable at the time the dam was built.”

      How do you know that? The dam was constructed in 1961. Which means that it was designed in the 1950s. The first nation wide Tech Paper covering precipitation frequencies was published in 1961, based on an analysis of data in the 30 years up to 1950. The statistical techniques used to do the analyses were developed in the 1940s.
      In the 1950s the technology did not exist to predict the effects of a particular rainstorm on a watershed.
      The dam was most likely designed according to estimates of flows based on the largest flood that the drainage area had experienced, and not according to any particular precipitation event.

  11. Who cares about the dam or the lake or the flooding? We’re going to have a bullet train from nowhere to nowhere. How in the name of God has California been dumb enough to elect an environmental imbecile like Moonbeam Jerry Brown the ignorant and incompetent as governor?

    • Considering the mentality of California voters and their obsession with things illogical (climate change being at the top of the list), it isn’t surprising this has happened.
      Trump should hold a workshop on responsibility and require that all Democrat governors attend; Republican governors need no such invitation because they’re responsible and will show (if nothing more than to demonstrate their bona fides.

    • Oh, but we love Moonbeam! We’ll elect him and all the other psychotics that want to run on the platform of ‘No growth – except for illegals’, castles in the sky (bullet trains, windmills), and make-believe (Hollywood). We do not reason, we emote. If you are capable of rational thought, return to wherever you came from. If you can only emote, you are welcome.
      Now, let me return to my eternal spring dancing!

    • Well Jerry has had most of four terms as governor; two legal ones, and two illegal ones, to fix some of the infra-structure, and so far hasn’t accomplished much of anything.
      Well Ivanpah was built on his watch I guess; that’s a success as a bird evaporator.

  12. A very good comparison is the the photo Steve placed on the other Orville dam article. examine the road that passes in front of both spillways. In places the road is gone and much of the ground between the road and the spillway.
    reference to Steve’s photo
    Steve Oregon February 11, 2017 at 12:31 pm

  13. Lake Oroville is quite large.
    It covers 25 sq miles
    Looking at the video, the right side of the E spillway is already eroded at the base.
    That can only get worse.
    The E spillway is 1700 ft long and judging by the video with people standing on the top to the right it is at least 60 ft tall.
    It is going to collapse and 60 feet of the depth of the lake will spill into the land below.
    I have very bad feeling that officials are way behind the curve and should be evacuating a much bigger area much quicker.
    Or not?

  14. Looks like a replay of Brisbane Wivenhoe Dam 2011. I’m told Sacramento is under threat is that right?

  15. By increasing the flow down the damaged main spillway they have minimized water flowing over the auxiliary spillway. If they can keep that up they may be able to lower the lake level sufficiently before it rains again midweek. That seems to be the strategy. Hopefully it works.
    Also hopefully the end of a drought which is a regular event in California will lead to questioning of their political leaders. Those who sound so convinced when they claim to understand weather and climate. Fact is they are simply speculating with great earnestness. But still speculating.

  16. Thanks God things are looking better as the lake level continues to drop. Any takers on how many people get fired over this fiasco? I’ll take zero.
    It was pretty clear what these DWR jackasses were up to yesterday when in Orwellian-like fashion they started referring to the emergency spillway the “auxiliary” spillway. It’s for an emergency, the fact it has never been used in 50 years and completely unlined makes that plainly evident.
    Yet calling its real name might give Joe Six-pack the completely accurate impression that these geniuses didn’t know what they were doing (and hadn’t done their planning and maintenance jobs for at least the last five years). Rather than letting the public understand the gravity of the situation and prepare accordingly, they started their “nothing to see here” routine. It’s now a euphemistically-named “auxiliary” spillway (no emergency for heaven’s sake) just the routine use of an alternate, no big deal.
    They deliberately mislead the public to hide their incompetence. Now we have a panicked evacuation rather than the orderly evacuation that could have been organized and widely implemented yesterday. They knew this was completely untested and had no idea how well it would work.
    Bring back tar and feathers.

    • What has bothered me is how they earlier said the primary spillway had a routine inspection but no one walked it for a close visual inspection. Not funny since we know there were trucks on the spillway dealing with a previous repair. No one walked the thing to follow up?
      Really, none of the busy water dude bureaucrats had the time to go on a lollygag walk to inspect it? It’s not like that is tough work. It’s a stroll. Gees.
      What else are they not really inspecting?
      I’ll have to go read Anthony’s local paper piece.

    • started referring to the emergency spillway the “auxiliary” spillway.

      yes, I noticed that on one of the videos yesterday.

    • For now yes but this ain’t over by a long shot. More rain and snows coming. Near record snowpack in the mountains that will probably break the all time record before the melt comes. And that with the reservoir all ready at capacity! Nope, this ain’t even close to over.

    • It was pretty clear what these DWR jackasses were up to yesterday when in Orwellian-like fashion they started referring to the emergency spillway the “auxiliary” spillway.

      It reflects a change of terminology in the design manuals. Nothing nefarious on their part.

      • Mark: The manuals changed a few years ago, but old times still use the same terminology they trained under. They likely are spending a lot of time with the manuals these days.

      • Uh huh, I’m not as trusting as you of their motives. It was referred to as the emergency spillway in virtually every press account and news release that I could find before Saturday. This was when they were trying to convince the public it wouldn’t need to be used and everything was under control. It was referred to as the emergency spillway a decade ago when questions were raised by environmentalists (of all people) regarding it’s soundness. The federal report that dismissed these concerns referred to it as the emergency spillway. It was called that for a reason.
        Then on Saturday, when they decided they had no choice but to use it, it suddenly became the auxiliary spillway. Probably some government-flack PR specialist decided “emergency” would send the wrong message. As it turned out, the “wrong” message was actually truth as the spillway started failing at only 5% of its alleged maximum flow rate (supposedly 250K ft3/sec).
        It was never designed to be used but was included as a safety valve to accommodate runoff of unimaginable proportions and prevent a total dam failure (i.e. an emergency).

  17. According to the Sac Bee, the problem is to the left of the spillway, where the parking lot used to be. Also, not clear from the angles that the road has washed away.

    • Perhaps they are meaning to the left of the main spillway? They may be trying direct people’s attention away from any confusion in thinking the danger is with the original main spillway hole etc.

  18. From Redding Searchlight:
    “The most recent inspection of the Oroville Dam spillway did not include a close examination of the discharge channel, according to a state dam safety report.
    The last inspection on the Butte County dam, which has developed a hole 30 feet by 200 feet on the spillway, was conducted in July 2015 by the state Division of Safety of Dams.
    However, rather than undergoing a close visual inspection, the spillway was checked “from some distance,” the report says.”

  19. I certainly hope that ANY loss of life can be prevented, and that damages WILL be minimal. It sure does seem like the understanding. predictability, and management of this event has been very poorly executed.
    Everything is OK, Everything is OK, Remain Calm, Remain Calm, OK NOW RUN FOR THE HILLS AS FAST AS YOU CAN……..
    Mother Nature sure can be a difficult lady, best to prepare for the worst she can offer and still hope for the best.
    This could (but probably won’t) be a lesson for all those folks that think they know everything that will happen in the next 100 years with regards to the weather.
    Heck, Ca was supposed to be in a permanent drought according to the computer models….
    Maybe the best outcome is if everybody survives with no loss of life, limb, or property AND the “climate science computers” get drowned and can never be started up again…..
    Maybe “Moonbeam” can strongly encourage everybody to wash their cars 10 times a day until the snowpack is gone……
    Be safe everyone, hoping for the best possible outcome, KevinK

  20. Yes, 30 ft high at left of spillway and probably 60 ft high on the right. But the erosion is occurring to the left of spillway where there is little concrete support. Stopping the overflow will give them time to shore up the left flank.

  21. Somebody did some bad math on not opening up the main spillway more earlier. How does that happen! Was ther some environmental activist concern that slowed the process of opening the gates sooner?
    More rain coming this week as I understand it. Snow melt season will turn this into a global warming problem in the next few months. Just sayin……

    • I’m sure the reason that the emergency spillway was never tested was due to environmental regulations regarding silt. The overflow channels are now clear/clean. When repairs to unforeseen issues with regards to the emergency spillway are completed another controlled test should be done at even higher levels over the top. Of course the primary spillway needs to be fully operational at the time. A controlled risk is much preferred over an uncontrolled disaster.
      Anything that has an emergency purpose needs to work in an emergency, not create one.

      • The only way to test the emergency spillway is to deliberately overfill the catchment. It’s a little like starting a fire in the middle of the building to see if the fire alarm system works. Not the best idea.

      • If it had been tested and the primary was capable of handling 200,000 cfs the weakness would have been identified and addressed.
        It could have been a true disaster if more rain had continued to fill the lake. The fire analogy was weak.

      • So your solution to testing is to deliberately create an immanent threat to life and property in order to test the emergency spillway??? I am reminded of the Bugs Bunny cartoon where he’s testing warheads with a hammer…

    • They were not using the main spillway at max capacity because it is damaged and erroding. They tried to adjust the the flow to minimize the damage but then they couldn’t keep up with inflow. And it went over the never used emergency spillway. Now they have no choice. Use the main spillway at full flow and drop the level down until the main spillway is dry, Then they canpatch it up.

  22. They’re are in real trouble. This is not a late season storm system. WAY more water/storms is heading their way. Add in melt runoff later. This could get really ugly. Hopefully it’s not a complete failure.

    • For those of you unfamiliar with this area,and because there is no scale bar on the map, that’s 35 miles from the dam to the west edge of inundation. And 45 mi N-S, although the area clearly goes further south off the map. That’s a huge area !

  23. Was this spillway damaged previous to the spill and unrepaired, or was it caused by cavitation? If the first, it’s negligence. If the second, then it’s poor design.

    • Note that the damage is below the point where the slope of the chute steepens. Bernoulli’s principle: when velocity of a fluid increases the pressure decreases.
      Below the inflection point is where the velocity increases and thus cavitation is probably the culprit. When cavitation occurs, pockets or bubbles of vacuum are created on the surface of the chute at the interface with the fluid. When the vacuum collapses a water hammer effect occurs which plucks the rock or concrete out in chunks.
      The concrete is being ‘jackhammered’ out by the water.

    • The main spillway looked narmal before they used it. But when the turned on the flow part of it collapsed into a void.Cvitation caused it to quickly grow. By the time they turned off the water they already had a hole too big to fix in the time they had. There is no easy way the inspect for voids under cement.

  24. If the E spillway holds, including the base of it etc., with that much water running over it then a congratulations to the engineers 50 years ago will be in order.

  25. This seems like a badly designed and maintained dam. An emergency spillway should not erode like that, it should be designed to cope with probable maximum flood levels, and why the heck were there trees and brush and power lines across the thing? Evidently they never thought it would happen. And the main spillway has shown seepage problems for several years but they’ve just patched it up. Nobody took the possibility of flooding seriously? Of course not, it’s California!

    • http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/12/oroville-dam-feds-and-state-officials-ignored-warnings-12-years-ago/
      Oroville Dam: Feds and state officials ignored warnings 12 years ago
      “Three environmental groups — the Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and the South Yuba Citizens League — filed a motion with the federal government on Oct. 17, 2005, as part of Oroville Dam’s relicensing process, urging federal officials to require that the dam’s emergency spillway be armored with concrete, rather than remain as an earthen hillside.
      The groups filed the motion with FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They said that the dam, built and owned by the state of California, and finished in 1968, did not meet modern safety standards because in the event of extreme rain and flooding, fast-rising water would overwhelm the main concrete spillway, then flow down the emergency spillway, and that could cause heavy erosion that would create flooding for communities downstream, but also could cause a failure, known as “loss of crest control.”
      end excerpt

    • The main spillway can only be used once the water gets within about 50 feet of the top of the dame. They reached that level only a week ago. Keep in mind that the dame was almost empty 2 years ago and mostly empty in september of 2016.
      They do have a power house which can drain the lake at any level. However it cannot keep up with the flood level inflows that started in November. In a normal year they leave 1/5 of the lake empty and only fill that after the rains have ended and the snow starts melting.

  26. Oh well that was fast. I see from Jeff C above the water level has dropped and is no longer running over the emergency spillway at all.
    8:15 p.m.
    Lake Oroville water levels have fallen to 901 feet, the level at which water flows over the emergency spillway, state figures from 8 p.m. show.
    That means little or no water is likely coming over the emergency spillway – and the threat of collapse due to erosion has diminished said Joe Countryman, a member of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and a former engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article132332499.html#storylink=cpy

  27. The live feed reveals a fascinating, though perfectly predictable, example of what an emergency evacuation looks like — total automobile gridlock.
    Here on the Oregon coast, if there is a massive earthquake, getting in one’s car to escape the soon-to-arrive tsunami is the kiss of death. It’s by foot or bike (or motorcycle I suppose), or kiss your booty goodbye.

    • If you’re evacuating from an emergency at the same time as everyone else, you’re in trouble. The trick is to not live where there will be a flood. If you’re expecting a flood, the secret is to get out before they declare a mandatory evacuation, same for a forest fire. We learned a lot from Katrina.

      But all the planning in the world can’t be successful if people aren’t ready to evacuate. Some say that, as long as the memory of Katrina remains fresh, New Orleanians will never hesitate to flee. But Renne still worries about complacency. “We’ve now gone a number of years without any hurricanes and there are people who have moved to the city who have never experienced a hurricane evacuation,” he said. “We are fighting a constant, uphill battle to make sure that people are aware of the risks that Mother Nature places on us.link

      Consider a bug-out bag.

  28. GFS showing 6-10+ inches for headwaters above dam over next 16 days… even if all is good now , still stormy weather ahead & a lot more rain coming , in terms of maintaining the integrity of this dam. This is going to be an interesting story to continue to follow

  29. IFF the foundation of the emergency spillway has been compromised, its ultimate failure may take days or even weeks, gotta drain the lake to reduce the pressure.
    Ain’t outta the woods yet.

  30. Skeptics are once again proven correct and climate obsessed people are proven wrong. The drought was not permanent, and the governments should have stuck to building up infrastructure to protect people, property and environment from floods. So in Australia completely preventable flooding hits due to cliamte obsessed policies. And California may lose a major, not very old, dam due to climate obsessed policies.
    Is there anything that climate change obsessed people can’t make worse?

    • But Hey!! Gov Moonbeam has his carbon tax $billions to spend on a medium speed choo-choo train, a train that no one will ride, from Fresno to Bakersfield.

  31. The emergency spillway connects to a simple buried barrier near the corner of the parking lot and it is at this joint that water was spilling and eroding the soil that holds up that wall. Had the erosion continued it would have been that wall, not the emergency spillway that would have failed. From images seen on Google images that is all loose filler, not bedrock, on both sides. The entire parking lot would have washed away and the slope would surely have been scoured away to a depth of 10s of feet or more.

  32. ….And: If the dam is structurally weak and has to be drained, then the loss of this precious water and the resulting damage the lack of flood control on this river is *all* on the heads of the climate concerned who diverted money from maintenance and improvements of basic flood infrastructure into scams like large scale solar, high speed rail, and wind.

  33. Moderator, If my earlier post used symbols not allowed please accept my apology. Here it is without asterisks:
    ….And: If the dam is structurally weak and has to be drained, then the loss of this precious water, the resulting damage to the dam, and the lack of flood control for several years or more on this river is all on the heads of the climate concerned who diverted money from maintenance and improvements of basic flood infrastructure into scams like large scale solar, high speed rail, and wind.

  34. http://i65.tinypic.com/2v3hrbk.jpg
    The water from the emergency spillway *will* cut an uncontained channel across that barren hillside to the Feather RIver. It will happen as surely as the snow in the mountains to east will melt.
    THis cut will deepen and widen over the next few months as continued rainfall and Sierra snow pack melt will flow into the Lake.
    The dam itself is not in danger. But much of the stored water behind the dam could flow south towards Sacramento *if* the erosion channel grows large enough. Big IF.

  35. Because they neglected the Dam’s need for repairs and updates,it cost a lot more money now,trying to prevent the probable disaster, that if they just did their job maintaining it.
    It would have been a lot cheaper if they LINED the Emergency Spillway with Concrete, which would prevent back erosion from occurring, to keep the structure in the area intact. Now they might lose a lot more than just the spillway……..,Huge repair bill coming up.
    This is classic government screw up.

    • You are assuming they were neglecting maintenance. There is no evidence they were. They were doing their normal visual inspections and saw nothing of concern. Unfortunately no one has X-ray vision which would have been the only way to see void under the main spillway. All dames in the US and much of the world use visual inspections.
      WHEN was the last time you did a visual inspection of your homes foundation? Are you sure there isn’t a sink hole under it?

      • “WHEN was the last time you did a visual inspection of your homes foundation?”
        Within the last twelve months, actually, when the cellar flooded to a depth of around six inches during a very heavy storm so I dug a sump and installed a submersible pump to stop it happening again.
        In any case, there is a difference between my home being damaged by a sinkhole and a dam failure potentially endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands, especially when the potential for a problem was pointed out over a decade ago.

  36. Another example of how engineers get held to a slightly different standard to climate scientists.
    Just homogenise the data to say that the dam is only half full.

      • Yeah, as I commented above, that seemed to start yesterday and was the first clue the DWR was more concerned about managing perception than reality. Unbelievable. Heads should roll but they won’t.
        Water level is down to 900.70 feet as of 9 PM, 4 inches below the top of the emergency spillway.

      • I’ll bet there are many dam engineers that haven’t been outside in a while, personally inspecting tailraces.

    • The Sheriff of the county ordered the evacuation. In his discussion he noted that one consideration he had to take into account was that there was no model of what would happen if the emergency spillway was comprimised.
      The lack of an engineering model and the uncertainty that creates was enough for him.
      Note: he is not a hydrologist
      Note he did not calculate costs or probabilities.
      Uncertainty, lack of good models, is never an excuse for in action
      [Cory Honea is a personal friend of mine, and he doesn’t make snap decisions. until you become the Sheriff, and until you deal with issues where lives may be at stake, THEN you’ll have the right to criticize, as it stands, your opinion is just whining -Anthony]

      • You missed my point.
        He made the right decision.
        To everyone who says we need validated accurate models to make decisions, consider the wisdom of this Sheriff
        To everyone who says you have to have a degree or be a scientist or engineer, consider the wisdom of this Sheriff
        To everyone who thinks you need perfect information to make a decision…. ya.. consider the wisdom of this Sheriff.
        As he said, he made the decision because of the lack of good information about what the consequences would be.

      • If there’s no model to assess the risk, that is NOT the fault of the sheriff who finds himself without the means to make an informed decision.
        In view of the massive risk to life , I would imagine he will be erring on the side of caution in ordering the evacuation.

      • Can we all agree, that at this point, while things seem to be going from bad to worse on every update, it has become out of control.
        It has turned into a learning experience.

      • Greg said:
        “If there’s no model to assess the risk, that is NOT the fault of the sheriff who finds himself without the means to make an informed decision. ”
        Who is at fault for there not being a model is not the point either.
        This is the point:
        “The Sheriff of the county ordered the evacuation. In his discussion he noted that one consideration he had to take into account was that there was no model of what would happen if the emergency spillway was comprimised.
        The lack of an engineering model and the uncertainty that creates was enough for him.”

      • You just damned all of the climate change movement there Steven.
        “Uncertainty, lack of good models, is never an excuse for in action.”

      • The Sheriffs lack of good information goes right back to those authorities giving the briefings. The tells which indicated they were not being forthcoming while making all those reassuring noises was when they started referring to the emergency spillway as the “auxiliary spillway”. And more importantly emphasized that the “auxiliary spillway” was not being used to even near it’s capacity while they continued to use the damaged primary spillway. That just did not add up. Those guys giving the briefing knew information that was not good news and did not divulge it for whatever reason.

      • There are no models, but simple observation indicates a resonable probability of many deaths in hours.
        Contrast it with AGW claims models are accurate and they are certain (science is settled) that some random bad things will happen in 30-80 years, while simple observations contradict pretty much everything they say?
        You can use his words as example AFTER your side admits that science is not settled, you know very little about what’s going to happen, your models are total garbage and start having real honest discussion about climate.

      • The difference Steve is that this is a real and obvious emergency.
        The claims that CO2 is an emergency is not and never will be.

      • Mosher
        I hope you understand my (increased) skepticism.
        You’re actually conflating the utterly predictable failure of a poorly designed & maintained dam for which weather/rain data and failed inspections actually exist (but were willfully ignored by state dam engineers & managers who simply didn’t do the analysis) with CAGW, which has no credible (adj just about equal claimed warming) data, no testable theoretical statement of cause & effect, refuses to make scientifically testable predictions, and can’t differentiation between natural & man-made warming from the Little Ice Age.
        Part of the normal development of the human brain is the ability to successfully identify & prioritize threats. Yea, I could get hit by a meteorite tomorrow, but I’m not looking to spend $1000 on an iron umbrella.
        You & Prince Charles may believe in this stuff, but a lot of the rest of us will take a pass.

      • There have been many structure failures throughout history which we have seen or read about to guide such “un-modelled” decisions.
        The world has never heated to catastrophe, ever.
        However, it HAS cooled to 6C below present day temperatures, and we have good evidence of the results in the fossil records.

      • “lack of good models”
        “Good models”?
        You wouldn’t know a good model if it ran under your bridge and bit you on the snout!
        There’s a difference between models as used by engineers and computer games used by English majors playing at being climate “scientists”.

  37. It will be interesting to see how the authorities handle the evacuation. How long will it last? With more rain coming later in the week will they keep people away for days, or will they let them return home and then potentially evacuate them again? And, as with any mass displacement of people, there are real risks to life and limb. What if there are casualties — directly or indirectly — from the evacuation(s)?

  38. This now appears like a $Billion washout.
    I wonder if Moonbeam Brown will be threatening the White House for assistance.

  39. Global Warming froze their brains. The power, self-righteousness , and money made them as irresponsible as any government in the history of the world. This is the tip of the iceberg.

    • “More frequent and severe weather
      Higher temperatures are worsening many types of disasters, including storms, heat waves, floods, and droughts. A warmer climate creates an atmosphere that can collect, retain, and drop more water, changing weather patterns in such a way that wet areas become wetter and dry areas drier. “Extreme weather events are costing more and more,” says Aliya Haq, deputy director of NRDC’s Clean Power Plan initiative. “The number of billion-dollar weather disasters is expected to rise.”
      Yeap. Somebody’s brain is frozen.

    • “More frequent and severe weather
      Higher temperatures are worsening many types of disasters, including storms, heat waves, floods, and droughts. A warmer climate creates an atmosphere that can collect, retain, and drop more water, changing weather patterns in such a way that wet areas become wetter and dry areas drier. “Extreme weather events are costing more and more,” says Aliya Haq, deputy director of NRDC’s Clean Power Plan initiative. “The number of billion-dollar weather disasters is expected to rise.”

  40. I think let’s not worry about what they could’ve done and worry about what is possibly going to happen. No one can predict the weather or mother nature. It all comes down to this simple fact “SHIT HAPPENS” now they know and will probably do their best to fix this problem for future issue’s.

    • You are making an assumption, Amy, that Moonbeam will change his attitudes toward global warming over this. Chances are good that he’s going to blame it on AGW and not any failure to follow routine maintenance requirements.

    • Amy:
      You have more faith in California politicians (and voters) than I do.
      A few years ago San Francisco’s 170-mile Hetch Hetchy aqueduct had a severe lack-of-maintenance problem that threatened the water supply for a large chunk of the bay area’s 6 million people. San Francisco had so neglected the aqueduct that the state threatened to take over ownership.
      Big government loves taking control (not the same as responsibility) for things, but it generally can’t figure out how to actually deliver (think inner-city public schools). And with sovereign immunity, there are no consequences (well, I mean other than water-starved people or bursting dams).
      Good luck with that “…probably do their best…” stuff.

  41. On the assumption the emergency spillway is not breached and the impoundment lost, right now a completely separate team needs to be planning and implementing a program to reconstruct the damaged spillway as you are at the beginning of the flood season. Modula pre-cast interlock block design may be the way to proceed with the spillway structure as you will not know just how much damage will ensue from this event. A new spillway foundation with reinforced earth, precast ramparts and soil anchors lain over an impermeable geotextile may be the quickest way to proceed with the footings and should also inhibit the subsoil aquifer that was the original cause of the failure. At some point an additional functioning spillway should be constructed where the temporary one currently is. If the dam is breached it will be a true disaster. I pray this is does not happen. Stay safe.

    • Pretty sure there was no aquifer involved. It was the ‘ski jump’ launching millions of gallons of water into the air, only to crash back to earth repeatedly on the same spot of the spillway over and over again, that caused the ramp to fail.

  42. Compare with Wivenhoe dam in Brisbane, built by a conservative government to hold back floodwaters. Labor ( cf Dems) believed that it would not rain again and overfilled it. Had to release huge amounts and damaged many houses. Currently legal action against Government over mismanagement.

  43. Local TV station KRCR TV found a photo from 2013 showing inspection/repair activity on the main spillway at about the same spot as where the main spillway started eroding, spawning subsequent problems. Photo appears in the TV station’s news video btwn time stamp 1:37 & 1:54. Perhaps instead of fixing the problem(s) in 2014, the state government on advice of possibly AGU et al (e.g. Peter Gleick?), decided that this man-made global warming permanent drought meant spend money on high-speed rail instead? http://www.krcrtv.com/news/local/butte/emergency-spillway-unecessary-for-now-2013-photo-of-damage-surfaces-supervisor-blames-dwr/325934917

  44. I would have been nervous had I been on the podium giving an update as the Acting Director of DWR, but I definitely would not have forget the difference between cfs and acre-feet.
    This yutz says that they are running at 65,000 acre feet per second. I do feel bad for him. Where did the director go? When will a new acting director be hired?
    Find competent engineers and put them in charge, and let them be responsible. Get rid of non engineer administrators and administrators that happen to have engineering licenses from cubical work that they did 30 years ago.
    This is just sad.

    • Well Chris,
      From your reply under lance (7:16 p.m.) to Brian356, we have learned that Oroville is not a flood control dam….
      maybe worse than useess.

      • I’ve found it very informative, maybe you missed something by scanning or not reading at all .
        If you know of better sources, provide a link instead of whining. If you don’t know of anything better, I guess it is the best, so stop whining.

    • Chris 4692
      I’d say a lot of that starts with the CA folks in charge of this on-going train wreck. Exhibit #1 would be the poor fool acting as the director of the DPR responsible for the dam – listening to him speak, you have to wonder if he actually knows what a dam is.

  45. John Garamendi just stated that Climate change is real (Man made I presume he meant) and storms will be getting worse and if we could only spend the money Trump is spending on his wall, on water infrastructure things would be better. So he got a dig at climate realists and Trump as well. Being from Australia has this guy got any credibility in the US. I have read Obama helped stop funding for infrastructure spending because California will never have full dams again.

    • garamendi is what you call a career politician. Since the public imposed term limits to rid ourselves of deadwood like John, he has spent the intervening decades hopping from one jurisdiction to the next, taking advantage of a loophole to keep his phony baloney job.
      Carpetbagger Garamendi

  46. From the Sacramento Bee, 4:45pm today:
    Flows over spillway dry up
    Lake Oroville water levels have fallen to 901 feet, the level at which water flows over the emergency spillway, state figures from 8 p.m. show.
    That means little or no water is likely coming over the emergency spillway – and the threat of collapse due to erosion has diminished said Joe Countryman, a member of the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and a former engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
    Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article132332499.html#storylink=cpy

  47. Something I don’t understand is, who built that road blocking the emergency spillway? There are no pylons to allow overflow water to escape. Second, the emergency spillway doesn’t appear to have anything protecting the ground behind the dam. There must surely be a major risk of undercutting the main dam from the water flow.
    I cannot conceive of engineers designing a dam this way. Nor can I see a government department approving such a patently unacceptable design.

    • An afterthought: what does the risk management plan say about this? Somebody has to have been seriously incompetent here.

    • Hivemind. The reality is that the main earth and rock fill dam can never be over topped as it will collapse causing catastrophe. So you design a spillway that will pass an extreme event flood such as a 1 in 10,000 year event. After that you have an emergency path for an even greater flood peak which is designed to fail by collapse before the main dam wall is breached. The emergency spillway would fall backwards when the over topping flood was perhaps 4 or 5 metres over it. This cascading failure scenario preserves the dam wall and provides time for evacuation and other preparations. The problem here is that the spillway failed by erosion and has not been operated at more than 40% capacity. The dam operator would have a set of fixed procedures to follow, firstly to cover their bums and secondly as basic operations are normally managed by technical people and not specialist engineers. In the real world, and in my experience, two things can go wrong. The first is that a human controller can be bamboozled when something unexpected happens and the second is that something unexpected always happens. Dam operators normally die from boredom. So when an unexpected circumstance arises they can be slow to process the enormity of the situation. I am not saying anything about this circumstance, but I have seen some near catastrophes emerge from very ordinary circumstances and a chain of stuff ups. A previous thread mentioned the Wivenhoe Dam above Brisbane in Australia. I knew the Dam operators by reputation and some in their organisation professionally. They are a very capable outfit. However the legally binding dam operation manual was not adequately reflective of the two contradictory roles played by that dam, ie water supply and flood mitigation. There was also a hint of political vacillation as there is always a person (sometimes persons) who must give the go ahead to operate a major spillway as there are presumed downstream consequences and some individual must take legal responsibility. Under a significant but not extreme precipitation event they managed to flood Brisbane down stream and cause huge damage to a major city. The rest of us were slugged a nation wide insurance levee for some years afterwards to pay for the insurance losses. The Oroville Dam situation still has a long way to go so it may be better to judge operator performance from some greater perspective.

    • Something I don’t understand is, who built that road blocking the emergency spillway?

      It is common to build a road across an emergency spillway. When the roadway is built it is shaped to channel the water to the middle of the spillway, It is accepted that the roadway will likely be washed away if the emergency spillway is ever used. Until it is washed away it serves the added function of slowing the water upstream of it thus also delaying erosion in that area.

    • Hivemind
      Now, now – calm down. They’ve only had since 1968 (dam opened) years to mull this stuff over. I’m almost certain they will improve somewhat in the future, just like the guys who designed the replacement Bay Bridge (Ooops! Unfortunate reference; seems that was knee-deep in incompetence as well).
      If you’re a state engineer, one of the most important things to hope for is no one gets sent to jail for any of this.

  48. Please correct me if I am wrong with these numbers:
    Lake Area 25 sq miles
    Height of emergency spillway wall/weir 50 feet
    Volume of water that needs to be released 34 725 000 000 cubic feet
    current rate of drop per the press conference 60 000 cubic feet per sec
    time needed assuming the rate stays the same 6.69 days of running the concrete spillway at 100 000 cubic feet per second.
    My question is can the concrete spillway sustain that rate of flow for that time period??
    If not when will the dam “fail” i.e water starts running over the top of the dam and what are the consequences to the structures at the bottom of the dam and downstream?
    Also loss of electrical power at the dam (flooded turbines / generators will that cause loss of control of the emergency spillway?
    Again just some thought from a non engineering person.

    • The problem is there will be high inflow rates into the lake for the next 3-4 months. The question becomes can the outflow sustain high rates for months not days.

      • I agree, my question would then be l if there is no way to keep the dam from overflowing then what measures need to be implemented now to prevent loss of life ??
        Also do the administrators in DWR have the moral courage to tell people you need to remain evacuated until …….. ( days, weeks, months rainstorms, snowmelt etc are done) ??

    • Water cannot overtop the dam because the emergency spillway is lower than the top of the dam. The danger is a collapse of part of the emergency spillway concrete structure which would result in an uncontrolled release of just the top 50 feet of water in the dam (which nevertheless is a lot of water). The spillways run down a hillside away from the dam which was a very clever decision on the part of the engineers. It means there is still no real danger to the main dam structure.

      • The spillways are part of the dam infrastructure. Failure of the emergency spillway would allow erosion of the substrate in that section there by leading to a breech of unpredictable size and outflow. Who knows what is going to happen! It has been a slow motion disaster in the making from the get go like two trains heading for each other. The question is will there be a collision and how bad will it be if there is one. But I would note that many of the reassurances that the authorities have given have turned out to be false.

      • Strictly speaking it can – and just few hours ago it went over emergency spillway height by almost 10 feet.
        If inflow exceeds outflow, the height of water over the top of emergency spillway will be increasing, and if it continues long enough it will theoretically eventually reach the top of the dam.
        Of course it is more likely that emergency spillway will erode first and outflow will increase “naturally”, or DPW will use explosives to open up the hole elsewhere – which, while being really bad, would still be better than letting dam collapse.
        But it’s all theoretical – hope that it was designed that something like that would never happen.

      • RAH February 13, 2017 at 1:52 am
        The spillways are part of the dam infrastructure. Failure of the emergency spillway would allow erosion of the substrate in that section there by leading to a breech of unpredictable size and outflow.
        AFter having reviewed the topology and makeup of the small hills (rock, most likely granite) in the area, I’m thinking “no.”
        Please review the specifics as to the ‘lay of the land’ and correct me if I am wrong.

      • _Jim February 13, 2017 at 8:07 am
        RAH February 13, 2017 at 1:52 am
        “The spillways are part of the dam infrastructure. Failure of the emergency spillway would allow erosion of the substrate in that section there by leading to a breech of unpredictable size and outflow.”
        AFter having reviewed the topology and makeup of the small hills (rock, most likely granite) in the area, I’m thinking “no.”
        Please review the specifics as to the ‘lay of the land’ and correct me if I am wrong.
        I will correct you because I believe your wrong! How strong does this bedrock look to you? I’m no geologist or civil engineer but that “bedrock” looks like porous, punky, fractured junk to me.

      • RAH February 13, 2017 at 6:22 pm
        re: _Jim February 13, 2017 at 8:07 am
        RAH writes: “I will correct you because …”
        Please see:
        for support of my contention.
        The Oroville dam was NOT a dam like the failed Teton dam which *was* built on fissured and somewhat porous rock.

    • Your calc assumes a vertical walled shoreline. The bed is sloped, so the area decreases considerably with depth- how much I don’t know. But I’d guess the volume in that top 50 feet is less than half of what you calculated. Somewhere there is an area per water height table, and from that it would be pretty easy to manually integrate the volume.

    • My question is can the concrete spillway sustain that rate of flow for that time period??

      If it was undamaged it could, and probably has in the past. With the damage its anyone’s guess.

      • I see almost no undercutting of the concrete spillway moving upslope so my guess is it can. The shape of it tends to fire water out away downslope. The lower part of the spillway will totally destroy itself, but the upper part I think will remain intact.

  49. I have read that the Governor of California has sought Federal assistance. So a State whose contempt for the administration of President Trump is blatant now wants a bail out. While I certainly do not wish to see a disaster, and certainly no loss of life, the temptation must exist to tell the State government to deal with the problems of its own making. However there has to be quid pro quo for the help, I would start with demanding respect towards the rest of America who must fund correction of Californians own misjudgements. The arrogant disregard of some along the west coast has gone way to far. Do you hear judges of the 9th Circuit.

  50. [sourcecode]
    02/12/2017 15:00 902.17 3571995 54904 46678 63875 34.76 13.4
    02/12/2017 16:00 902.09 3570722 65117 41410 72238 34.76 13.4
    02/12/2017 17:00 901.89 3567540 0 45998 97713 34.76 13.3
    02/12/2017 18:00 901.65 3563726 99969 42369 103022 34.76 13.5
    02/12/2017 19:00 901.35 3558960 99758 40485 113169 34.76 13.5
    02/12/2017 20:00 901.02 3553726 99658 37441 118405 34.76 13.5
    02/12/2017 21:00 900.70 3548654 0 14784 118144 34.76 13.3
    02/12/2017 22:00 900.34 3542956 99231 5237 118148 34.76 13.5
    02/12/2017 23:00 900.11 3539318 99080 33762 115226 34.76 13.5
    Something screwed with their data.
    17:00: zero outflow ; 45998 cfs inflow yet water level subsiding.
    Hope that formats OK.

  51. “officials stress that Oroville Dam itself is sound”
    I don’t know about that. With all the water they’ve been releasing? I recall seeing a photo of Hoover Dam when a similar incident happened – once they got in to inspect it this is what they found:
    “When engineers inspected the spillway tunnels, they saw that house-sized holes had been punched through the concrete lining…”

    • Hi 4Times,
      For anyone who wants to google up on this incident, the LA Times title is misleading. The spillway tunnel cavitation was actually in Glen Canyon dam, many miles upstream from Hoover. The event was real, however, and there are really scary photographs of the resulting damage.

  52. The emergency spillway is rated at 250,000 cubic feet per second? That must be a complete lie. The soil behind it would all be gone within minutes if that rate ever occurred. Looking at some footage and the erosion, including the loss of that roadway below it, and at some 10,000cf/sec only, I could only assume the total loss of that hillside, not just the loss of the concrete emergency spillway.
    The only real question, considering that they are using a parking lot as part of the spillway, is what is below that emergency spillway. Rock or dirt?

    • The emergency spillway is rated at 250,000 cubic feet per second? That must be a complete lie. The soil behind it would all be gone within minutes if that rate ever occurred.

      The soil in an emergency is expected to erode. There is rock under the soil. otherwise they would not have put the emergency spillway in this location.

      • I’m watching this discussion and thinking – “gee some people would really like for things to be disastrous”. This is the same kind of thinking that drives alarmists I think. They see a technical issue with CO2 possibly causing warming, and instead of coldly assessing the likelihood and the magnitude are eager that it be catastrophic.
        My assessment is that despite the damage to the lower part of the emergency spillway the upper part is perfectly sound and in no danger. And if they just run the emergency spillway at max there won’t be an issue.

      • Stephen Rasey:. The rock is a metamorphic rock , schist, per the feasibility study. Is it surprising to you that the geology was considered in the decision to locate the spillway where it is?

  53. I see a lot of ignorant comments about what went on at Wivenhoe Dam. I suggest actually acquainting yourself with the data in detail rather than reading the politically motivated crap put out by the mainstream media. Seems like some people demand all the data be presented so they comb over it in fine detail on matters of climate change but think a cursory glance is enough to draw a conclusion in regards to the cause of the Brisbane floods.
    Personally I spent a month going over all the data in minute detail to provide a 2 hr presentation on the event to the Brisbane severe weather association. This involve looking at all available weather forecasts, river levels, historical context and the lead in to the event (there was another significant inflow in October 2010 several months earlier where the type of releases clamored for in Jan 2011 would have generated significant extra flooding).
    The actual weather forecasts for the event were for massive rainfall occurring below the dam on the Monday 11th and Tuesday 12th. Of course for the geniuses here who have the benefit of hindsight, it makes perfect send to make massive releases from a dam only half full into an area forecast to receive hundreds of mm of rain onto super saturated ground (at 100% runoff) that was seeing local creeks and rivers below the dam hit moderate to major flood levels in response to less than 50 mm of rain in the preceding week. I swear some people here don’t understand the concept of a dam.
    For the record massive releases were occurring well before the 1/200 year to 1/2000 year rainfall from Sunday to early Tuesday that filled the dam (remember this had been forecast to fall below the dam) and caused the massive releases on January 11th.. I shot footage of the dam on the Saturday 8th Jan prior to the major rainfall hitting that was used in the National Geographic documentary on the Brisbane Floods. At that point they were already releasing 52,000 cubic ft per sec and there was already massive amounts of water going downstream of the dam.
    Its now 6 years later and the class action against the dam operators began in Oct 2016. At least the courts will get to see all the evidence as opposed to the ignorant rubbish that was presented in the media about the event. I see little chance of the lawsuit succeeding.

    • “David W February 13, 2017 at 2:05 am
      At least the courts will get to see all the evidence as opposed to the ignorant rubbish that was presented in the media about the event.”
      Aussie media publishing ignorant rubbish, you jest?

  54. Couple of things:
    Remember when some sceptics convinced attendees at COP20 that Dihydrogen Monoxide was more dangerous than CO2? Seems that Oroville is about to find the sceptics weren’t kidding.
    As a Brit (who lived in the USA – NC – for a few years) I like to keep tabs on things. I found the countryside round Oroville so pleasant I took a tour via Google Streetcam round the dam and the marina. What a beautiful place to live. Great houses and great views. Such a shame that the PTB can’t manage basic maintenance of the simple things. I do hope a public inquiry is held and that those responsible for this negligence get what’s coming – and aren’t allowed to plead AGW (the new 5th).

  55. How far can you get with an electric car at night in cold weather conditions, 5 people in the car 2 dogs 1 cat , luggage etc ?
    Remember there are 150,000 people going in the same direction at that same moment.

  56. What’s the long-term future of this dam now that the emergency spillway is eroding and the main spillway is destroyed.
    Well, it ceases to be a dam now. You can’t hold back and release water to maintain a reservoir level. You can only keep releasing water to keep the reservoir below the main spillway level. It needs $400 million of repairs which can only be undertaken in dry conditions and will take at least 5 years.
    The power station will have the only release capability and that will be limited.
    In other words, the majority of the reservoir water is coming downstream. Cities and farmland in the way are going to be gone in the five months it takes. Then there will be at least 5 years of more disasters until a real spillway is replaced. Maybe it won’t be fixed. Then you have a big dam holding back a little bit of water and an operating power station, that’s it.

    • Some temporary repairs can be made to keep the main spillway from collapse and then begin the real replacement of the main spillway when the inevitable drought kicks back in 2 to 3 years from now. First they have to drop the lake level far enough to safely close the gates and survey the extent of the damage to the main spillway, then they will likely place some sort of rock fill in the current hole on the main spillway to try to prevent eroding away more soil until it is dry enough for a more substantial repair. Once it is dry again, they really need to replace the whole spillway with something that can take the pounding.
      The emergency spillway is another problem altogether and will need a complete redesign and construction to prevent erosion anywhere near the dam front. This is going to be expensive but that is really their only option.
      When planning this they need to remember that California may go long periods with little rain, but when they do get rain, it comes down in torrents and has been that way for a very long time. 5-10 fairly dry years marked with extensive brush fires followed by floods for a year marked with mudslides and avalanches.

      • In my opinion they will keep the main spillway gates fully open until the water is low enough that it cannot go over. While they are waiting for the water to stop in the main spill way they will have to shore up the emergency spillway as much as possible.
        When water flow stops over the main they will have to fill the holes with rock and than poor cement over it and replace the missing walls. This is only a patch to allow the main spillway to be used in a more normal manner.
        Longer term part of the emergency spillway should be replace with a new Main Spillway of equal size to the first. Them at that time the old main spillway and patch can be removed and replaced with a new one capable of maintaining its shape without failing even if the soil settles under it. Then the emergency spillway will be take susstained use without fail.
        In the end you would wind up wiith 2 spillways each of which is capable of handling most floods by itself. If the rare really wet year like this one both spillways would be able to handle the flow without using the emergency. And if the emergency is needed it will not fail. Of coarse in the worst case situation you would still have some flooding downstream.

  57. The Butte County Sheriff’s Office reports helicopters will be depositing rock-filled containers to strengthen the potential failure point.
    For some reason that reminds me of USSR helicopters dropping sand, lead, clay and boron on to the smoking wreck of the Chernobyl reactor.

  58. As a civil engineer watching from afar, I have a couple of observations. The Oroville Dam is actually two different structures, the dam itself and the control structures, separated by part of a large hill. Rule of Thumb No. 1: Hills tend to be solid rock covered by soil. The thickness of the soil tends to be less on steeper slopes and the top. While the soil may wash off the hill, the rock isn’t going anywhere. Therefore, it is unlikely that the dam itself will fail. The dam would fail if it is over-topped by water. The crest of the dam is at 920 and the crest of the emergency spillway is 901 so there would need to be 19 feet of water going over the emergency spillway before the dam is over-topped.
    The main spillway appears to be sitting on the rock. It can be seen in pictures when the water is down that this spillway sits in an excavated trench. The large wall on the right side of this spillway is probably solid rock. In a worse case scenario, the entire main spillway would wash away but the erosion would not go any further down.
    I have no idea what is going on with the emergency spillway. I would have thought that it would also be sitting on rock. It’s at the top of the hill, and the soil shouldn’t be that deep. That being said, when I saw the closeups of the bottom of the emergency spillway on Saturday I wondered about the lack of rip rap or concrete at the bottom of the wall. If it is founded on rock it would be hard to undermine, but the latest pictures seem to show that undermining is a possibility. If the emergency spillway fails it will erode until it hits rock which should be no lower than the bottom of the main spillway.
    The problem at the main spillway appears to be that water under the slab had washed away part of the base material over the years. Rule of Thumb No. 2. Civil engineers have very poor x-ray vision. And it is far worse than other people think it is. I know mine never worked at all when I tried to see through concrete. Sometimes we can guess better than other folks what is under a concrete slab, but that is only because of experience. You can improve your guessing by drilling holes in the slab, but if the hole is 6 inches away from a void, you still don’t know if the void is there. So how many holes should you drill in the main spillway looking for voids? 100? 200? 1,000? Its a BIG slab. The void may only be an inch high. I can see how they might miss the problem. Of course you could always tear out portions of the slab to check. The problem with this is that it is tough to make the new slab as good as what you tore out. Tying the old and the new together isn’t easy.
    As to why they didn’t release more water out of the main spillway, I would guess they were trying to limit the damage. Obviously they were damaging the main spillway. Plus they were worried about washing away some of the power line towers. And all the debris washing off the hillside was ending up in the river. This causes a dam in the river which raises the water upstream. As the water backs up it effects the powerhouse. Is it possible that the powerhouse could be flooded? I don’t know, but think what that would cost. In any case, all the debris in the river will need to be removed before the powerhouse can be used again. And who’s going to pay for all that damage? The taxpayers. So the folks in control of the dam are in a tough spot. They want to reduce the cost of repairs and they also don’t want to cause floods (or evacuations) downstream. They have limited choices, and the choices change as conditions change.

    • So how many holes should you drill in the main spillway looking for voids? 100? 200? 1,000? Its a BIG slab. I wonder if geophysics could help. High frequency Seismic Acoustic reflection to find where the concrete is not in contact with the soil/rock. Gravity Gradient measurements could find large voids quickly, and having a smooth, if not flat, concrete surface simplifies the processing.

    • So how many holes should you drill in the main spillway looking for voids? 100? 200? 1,000? Its a BIG slab.
      I wonder if geophysical tools could help. High frequency seismic acoustic reflection could find where the concrete is not in contact with the soil/rock. Gravity Gradient measurements could find large voids quickly, and having a smooth, if not flat, concrete surface simplifies the processing.

    • The problem with the emergency spillway is like this. … the emergency spillway is a section of the rim of the dam between the mountain and the spillway. The top of this section is lower than the dam’s rim. But it also runs that way for some distance.
      The problem is that the ES started seriously eroding back towards the concrete rim as water actually flowed over it. This creates the very real chance of the concrete rim suddenly crumpling and in turn abruptly dropping the top 50 + feet of lake down the ES.
      This is the emergency they are evacuating everyone for.

      • I have only now had a good look at this. I do not believe that there was a void.
        The problem was water trapped under the slab. The material under the slab was water saturated.
        If you look closely at the videos and pictures of the main raceway one can see that there are flows of water coming out of the side wall drains.
        For this water to be present the underside of the raceway would have to be flooded and the flooding would be lifting the floor like the bottom of a boat. I have seen several viaducts lost this way.
        When the + 50K cfs of water ran over the bottom the hydraulic lift lifted a slab up far enough for the lip to be caught by the flow and,,, big bada boom.

  59. Just out of curiosity, how much power is represented by 100,000 cuft/sec of water falling 900 ft (the height of the dam, I believe)

    • 901 feet seems to be the height above sea level of the crest of the emergency spillway (so maximum water level).
      The dam is 770feet high, the head at the power station is 615feet and the power station is rated 819MW, annual production 1490GWh [Wiki but the references seem OK and also (1490 x 1000) / (819 x 24 x 365) = 0.21 which seems plausible too]

    • “I still do not understand why they thought releasing 65k cfs over the regular spillway would mitigate the 130k cfs that was entering the lake.”
      WR: The regular spillway was broken. Erosion under the remaining concrete and aside of it may / will result in what is called ‘backward erosion’. A rising quantity of water will bring (more) backward erosion and so more damage of the spillway upwards to the dam. This might end in damaging the dam itself and/or its fundaments. That is a high risk. Therefore there was the ‘try out’ of the emergency spillway. But if failed.
      I saw on pictures (see: the three red circles on the video image of AndyG55 February 13, 2017 at 12:36 am) that left of the emergency spillway (there where the now drowned parking place was) there must be something like a ‘dike’ and on several places this ‘dike’ showed to be very permeable: water streams came out on the valley side. Erosion here would very soon create a river flow down on this very unexpected place. Very soon this ‘third flow’ would lower this [possibly] not enforced area below the height of the enforced emergency spillway and this would result in an uncontrolled outflow of the lake. I suppose.
      That permeability could be caused by the droughts of years. In Holland some years ago a dike broke after a long summer drought because the material of the dike became to dry and became too permeable. This could have happened here also. (Right now in Holland they are improving all comparable dikes)

      • Thanks Wim Röst, however my question was not about why they were limiting the discharge in the regular spill way, but why they thought the laws of mathematics would change because of the damaged spillway. It was mostly a rhetorical question, as someone either was totally incompetent to make such a statement about “not needing to use the Emergency Spillway”, or they were lying to the public.

  60. No – water is not going under the main dam. The water level is too high on the backside of the dam (due to the large flows from the spillways) to safely operate those chutes.

  61. Here’s what I think. Round up all the Hollywood blow hards who have been screaming in our ears about climate/Trump/bans whatever instead of just accepting their awards with gratitude then getting off the damn stage. Pass out shovels, and put THEM to work fixing this. Maybe then they will stfu about drought.

    • Quite right, Pamela. Last night on the BAFTAa (UK TV) the winning screenwriter got up accept his award and, like everyone else dump on Trump. He said that on the morning after the election his 15 year-old daughter pleaded not to go to school as she was so frightened. He persuaded her to go so she could provide comfort to all her classmates. He then went in to say how proud he was of her because she had since been on FIVE protest marches.
      Pass the sick bag.

      • Good to know. I had suspected that the same faces were showing up at the various marches for [insert cause here] week after week. 😉

    • That could be the basis of a great disaster flick. Hollywood’s best trying to save the town of Oroville by placing them selves in harm’s way. Will the weir collapse washing all of them away? Stay tuned for Episode II titled “Run Away, Run Away!!!!!

    • Previous inhabitants of Hollywood managed to get “their” reservoir permanently lowered till 1/2 or 1/3 capacity after the 1928 St.Francis dam collapse near L.A.

  62. Let us forget for a minute the daily oddities and the hogwash of politicians and let us pray for those who are about to lose their property or even life and limb.

  63. British TV is reporting they are dropping (or going to) rocks into the breach, wouldn’t the sand bags (if sand is available) be more effective ?

    • Vukcevic: “wouldn’t the sand bags (if sand is available) be more effective ?”
      WR: depends on the place: on the top of a dike some sand bags are OK. But where a lot of water is flowing big rocks are more appropriate. To dam sandy sea arms with strong tides In Holland they used concrete blocks of 2,5 tons, around one cubic metre each.

    • Not with water moving that fast. They will need the biggest rocks they can get. Later they should add finer fractions (smaller rocks) to fill the voids between the larger rocks, but after the larger rocks can keep the smaller ones from being washed away.

  64. The obvious solution: award the contract to update our dams and waterways and to provide more water storage to Dianne Feinstein’s husband. It will cost 100% more than it should, he will get much richer, but hey, it will eventually get done. He’s working hard making big money on the bullet train to no where. Over budget and behind schedule…..

    • And they also ignored the catastrophic flooding after drought-shy dam operators in Australia were tardy in spilling the excess from the lake behind their dam.

  65. Haven’t heard anything on this, but has California contacted the federal government (Trump administration) for assistance? From my FEMA on-line training, the federal government doesn’t volunteer assistance in these instances — the governor has to request it.

    • CA already has one request in — maybe 2 — for issues prior to this one. So it seems the State and Fed officials can just add another line to the meeting agenda.

  66. This may be a long shot but desperate times…
    I suggest plucking non-functional wind turbines out of the ground and dropping them in the hole. Rip rap and fish habitat may be the highest and best uses for these vista-marring eco-altars at this point in time.
    On a more serious note, thoughts and prayers to all that a crisis may somehow be averted.

    • Of course you can’t be exposing downstream communities to such things, because:
      “This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.”

      • I believe I saw that warning on the side of a bottle of water once…something about the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide causing cancer in lab rats when force fed their body weights every hour.

  67. What happens if a dam fails that is relied on for cooling water at a nuke plant?
    As some have suggested, part of the problem is the focus CAGW diverts from more important issues. We live in a world of limited resources.
    For example, there is a significant daily risk of smoke inhalation. Do your smoke detectors work? How do you know? Do you have a plan when they go off?
    Most of the things to reduce significant risk require very little resources but are often overlooked because they are mundane. Test your smoke detectors, look both ways when crossing the street.
    I was responsible for decay heat removal at Rancho Seco. The normal supply of makeup water for evaporative cooling was an irrigation canal from Folsom Dam. There was a 30 day supply in a small lake we had but after that we would need pumper trucks to bring in water.
    I considered how reasonable it would be to get water by truck if Folsom Dam failed. Off course all the bodies of the journalists at the Sacramento Bee would have been washed under the Golden Gate Bridge by then.
    This becomes a question to be answered by philosophers. If there are no fear mongering journalists, is there any fear?

  68. Looking at the erosion on the emergency spillway this morning from the news helicopters, it can never be used again
    Maybe with thousands of tons of concrete poured everywhere but that is it. Significant erosion channels and one is just 20 feet from undermining the emergency spillway wall.
    So, the reservoir just has to be released through the main spillway until it is very low (and it has to be that way until a new spillway is built).

  69. Every good Eco-Lib knows all dams are bad things. If this dam had never been built, this would never had happened. This is just Gaia trying to reclaim nature. When this is over, I’ll bet the Eco-nuts will demand the dam be demolished. You heard it here first.

  70. Should the foundation of the emergency spillway be fill of any kind then game over for that option. They have to pray for no more cloudbursts, then drain the reservoir to provide a window for repairs of the main spillway. Dropping any rock within the lift capacity of any helicopter is not going to do it. I have stood beside a steep inclining river in full flood. The rumble of 3 ton boulders being rolled downstream was deafening. This spillway is much steeper. One option could be to pour synthetic reinforced concrete directly into the damaged portion of the main spillway by air. There is for sure some sleepless nights over there.
    It is in the politician’s interests and engineer’s interests to claim that this is an extreme event that could not be anticipated. We all know where that leads to.

    • Should the foundation of the emergency spillway be fill of any kind then game over for that option.

      The designers would have known that. Which is why they chose this site for the emergency spillway: It has rock underneath to support the structure. They would have tied the weir into that rock.

  71. Of course it can be blamed on current Federal Administration. Instead of messing around looking for a few bad hombres they could be devoting funds to critical infrastructure that has capacity to kill 100,000 in minutes. Lack of Judgement! Hold Ryan and Mitch personally liable!

  72. Oroville dam has been studied for “confirmation of the design”
    Dr. Marachi’s doctoral research, then under the tutelage of the late Professor H. Bolton Seed, involved a comprehensive study of strength and deformation properties of rockfill material. This research, estimated at $20M, was financed through grants from California DWR, National Science Foundation, USBR and a number of other agencies. It included design of highly elaborate testing equipment, instrumentation, and laboratory testing of actual and modeled rockfill material. Results of his pioneering research have been used for confirmation of the design of Oroville and Pyramid dams in California, El Infernilo dam in Mexico, and Tarbella dam in Pakistan, which are all built and working satisfactorily. It is also published and/or referred to by most text books in geotechnical engineering as well as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation design manual for dams.

    • Steve Oregon
      Unclear what the point of your post is. Clearly the design one the “emergency overflow” was/is deficient. Doesn’t matter what Dr. Marachi’s $20M doctoral research & models showed.

  73. Look, they worried about a failure of the emergency spillway.
    If in fact it has been undermined, it is just a matter of time, unless they lower lake levels by about 30 feet.

  74. Above there was a question of boulders vs sandbags for spillway breach repair.
    I drove to Sacramento Airport this morning for a flight out.
    On the way I saw more than a few semi–flatbeds with stacks of what looked like 1cubic yard bags of sand with slings for connection to conveying apparatus.
    These trucks were all headed towards Oroville.
    Add this to all the boulders I saw being moved on the news this morning and I’d say it will be a combination of both.

  75. Multiple choppers dropping rock to shore up the emergency spillway. Even here in the Bay Area there was movement of military choppers over the weekend. I saw some Chinooks apparently gathering at Moffett. Not sure if the military choppers were for rock dropping or evac support. Fronts coming in later this week may not be as moisture rich as recent ones however current prog is for another series with no break. The cumulative impact may be a worry. It’s going to be a difficult summer, first with the melt and then the more permanent repairs that need to be done prior to the next rainy season.

  76. Imagine the enhanced erosion by big blocks of rock and angular concrete being propelled by rushing water …

  77. Evacuations in Butte, Sutter, and Yuba counties. All of them voted for Trump. A clear example of a coincidence.

  78. The issue is silt, plain and simple. The floodgate operaton was limited due to damage to sluice but once emergency spillway was flowing, further damage to sluice was less silt than emergency spillway use.
    What would have happened without the lake? I posit even more silt.

    • I posit that when all the crap and corruption makes it downstream to the next dam, there might be issues.

  79. The next step ahead will be that you’ll have to use a high-clocked Zorin “Z80”-CPU because then there’s
    no Silicon Valley .In the later future, the EMP will erase all data and you’ll wonder why this also affects magnetic data storages. Uran dURA
    It’s “A View To A Kill”.

  80. As expected the CBC global warming peddling “science blog” Quirks & Quarks, could not resist:
    “It might be surprising to hear of flood advisories and evacuations in a state that has endured more than five years of drought conditions.
    While the drought can’t be declared officially over, conditions have certainly improved. California has seen above-average precipitation and the snowpack — essential in providing groundwater — has also vastly improved. As of Monday, the snowpack in the northern, central and southern Sierra was at a capacity of 179 per cent for this time of year.
    As for Lake Oroville, which suffered severe drought conditions over the past few years, wet weather has brought it to 124 per cent of the historical average. More rain is expected over the next week, which could further complicate the situation.”
    5 years of drought was brought by the unprecedented man made global warming that threatens humanity’s existence… Are you afraid yet? Only FIVE years…
    And since they need to keep the scam alive, the “drought can’t be declared officially over”…
    And it’s about to rain even more… Must be global warming!

  81. According to wikipedia, the dam is used as a stored hydroelectric facility, utilising surplus power, and the pump generators have a larger MW capacity than the hydroelectric generators. Thus can pump water into the dam faster than the hydroelectric generators can drain it. We know that ‘renewables’ frequently produce large power surpluses and the dam would appear to be one the major ways in which this surplus power is ‘stored’.
    I wonder to what extent pumping water into the dam (using surplus renewable power) contributed to the current situation.

  82. So…. Is this imminent failure of plan B due to sheer all-round incompetence, or is it an instance of Yesmaniasis as appears to have been the case at Fukushima?

  83. Environmentalists blocked gates to add 10 ft to reservoir

    Countryman, a flood-control consultant formerly with the Corps of Engineers, said that the 2005 FERC proceedings were the second time in a decade that Oroville’s backup spillway was a focus of debate. Following the devastating 1997 floods in Northern California, Countryman said he urged the California Department of Water Resources to add special gates atop Oroville’s auxiliary spillway. Such gates, he said, would have allowed the reservoir to rise an extra 10 feet.
    But, according to Countryman and others, environmental groups opposed the gates, because they would have allowed water to back up into tributaries of Oroville that are protected by federal wild and scenic status. The proposal died. “Everyone was for it except for the concerns it created for wild and scenic rivers interests,” he said.

    YCWA concerns about Oroville’s auxiliary spillway

    Yuba County Water Agency (YCWA) raised concerns in 2002 about the damages that could occur from using the auxiliary spillway:
    “The discharge area below the emergency spillway is not armored and extensive erosion would take place if the emergency spillway were used. The spillway road and possibly high voltage transmission towers would be impacted. (p. II-1) Because the area downstream from the emergency spillway crest is an unlined hillside, significant erosion of the hillside would occur. (p. II-5) “The hillside between the emergency spillway and the Feather River would be subject to severe erosion when water flows over the spillway. Depending on the rate of flow, the erodable area . . . could range from 50 to 70 acres. The amount of soil, rock, and debris that would fall into the Feather River could be very large, depending on the depth of erosion. There could be damages to downstream structures, including the Thermalito Diversion Dam and Powerplant, Fish Barrier Dam, and highway bridges. If there is river channel blockage below the spillway, there could be impacts on operation of Hyatt Powerplant. (p. IV-3)”
    Yuba County Water Agency, Technical Memorandum on Lake Oroville Surcharge, August 2002

  84. is this is sorta disturbing? Lake Shasta is almost full and they can’t drain it fast enough to avoid flooding below?
    “way too much for this time of year
    “40 feet too high”
    “River is due to rise to levels not seen in about two decades”
    “Shasta is about 6 feet from being completely full, that’s way too much at this time of year,” Bader said. “We’re about 40 feet higher than we normally want to be at this point. We’re going to take advantage of the break in the weather to evacuate more space in the reservoir.”
    “Public safety officials in Shasta County urged caution and vigilance Saturday as the Sacramento River is due to rise to levels not seen in about two decades.
    Officials continued to dump water from a nearly full Lake Shasta on Saturday.
    Shasta Dam shown Saturday, when officials increased”

  85. Moderator, or Anthony: Since you are in the Chico area, is there a charitable organization, or a short list, doing work on the ground in Butte County helping with the evacuation that you could recommend we donate directly to? I know there are the large organizations like American Red Cross, but my preference is for smaller local or regional groups that respond immediately and do not have a big cash balance on hand. Thank you.

  86. This demands a clarification on what the “some distance” was. Google earth?
    The last inspection …..was conducted in July 2015 by the state Division of Safety of Dams.
    However, rather than undergoing a close visual inspection, the spillway was checked “from some distance,” the report says.
    “The discharge channel was not walked this time; however, a visual inspection from some distance indicated no visible signs of concrete deficiencies,” the report says.
    It wasn’t clear why the dam spillway was not more closely inspected, said Chris Orrock, a Division of Dam Safety spokesman.
    “The spillway bridge, service deck (upper), trunnion deck (lower), and trunnion deck walls appeared to be stable and no new concrete cracks or spalling were observed,” the report says.”

  87. I’m surprised the fact that Folsom Dam is currently receiving a secondary/”auxiliary spillway” hasn’t been mentioned here or on the news.

  88. If Seehofer was a real bavarian politician, 2nd in Germany = 2nd in the EU he’d say
    “Aus is’ und gar is’ und guad is’ dass wahr is”
    “over and done it’s time that we won.”

      • Wasn’t that the problem? When they started to do that they blew the hole in the spillway so they backed off that and decided to see what the Emergency Spillway could do.

    • That looks like a grand opening ceremony with buses, cars parked and a grand stand with a crowd gathered.

    • That picture is quite interesting. Look at the area in front of the weir. It has obviously been deliberately planed off. It is mostly greyish except for the circled area where the main erosion took place which is reddish. Now the type of metamorphic rock found in this area is dark grey to greenish grey, but weathers red. This is seen fairly well in the cutting above the main spillway, where the wall is grey with a thin reddish layer at the top. Unweathered rock of this type is very hard and erosion-resistant (“competent” is the technical term), but it weathers fairly quickly, and the weathering products are soft and easily eroded.
      The color in front of the weir suggests that it was mostly planed down to or nearly to uneroded bedrock except in the area where the worst erosion occurred.

  89. Looked like the water running over was flowing down a dirt hill side. If that’s what I saw, I don’t think that’s a good thing, that flowing water is going to move that dirt down hill weakening the dam.

    • There is a thin layer of dirt on top of a metamorphic rock. The erosion you see is the dirt. The rock is not affected.

  90. Look at the photo above to understand the construction. The emergency spillway is not on the dam itself. I think the main concern was that it would weaken its own footing and lead to a collapse of the lip which would lead to a head of several feet to water across the full area of the dam being dumped in very short order into the Feather river.
    That is why people were told to run away. The integrity of the dam itself is not in question at this time, othewise they would probably be evacuating S.F. !!

    • Correct. The emergency spillway sits on top of an natural ridge between the spillway and the mountain. The Emergency spillway itself is a narrow blade of concrete rising 50′ – 75′ into the air.
      Note that it is narrow….. This means that the sinkholes that began to form on the front edge of the emergency spillway created a very real risk that this narrow blade of concrete would crumple and collapse. If that happened you would abruptly have the top 50′ – 75′ of the lake dropping down the emergency spillway with no control or hope of regulation.
      This is the emergency that has them evacuating everywhere.

    • All of the low lying lands around the SF Bay would have been flooded. This would have included many of the tech companies, especially those in the low lands of Redwood City. This would have been made worse by the recent full moon. My brother lives in San Rafael, west side of SF Bay. He was saying that his backyard was no longer able to drain water for several days at the peak of the moon and the flows coming into SF Bay.

  91. I wonder if the anthropogenic global warming idiots in California have figured out that instead of going out of their way to keep coal generated electricity out of their over taxed State that perhaps taking care of the renewable energy that they already had, hydro power, they would have been far better off. To ask these far left fools to use rational thought and reason is not possible when the Obama administration did not consider hydro generated electricity to be renewable energy.
    Hydropower does have its critics.  And it’s not considered renewable by everyone.  It comes with some “pretty significant environmental baggage,” according to John Seebach, senior director of Federal river management with the conservation group, American Rivers.  He adds, “The reluctance to call hydropower a renewable energy is based on the impact [it has] on dams on fisheries and water flows.”

  92. May be worthwhile to establish a last ditch opportunity to save the concrete weir in the event of the unthinkable scenario by setting explosive charges on far north side of parking area to establish an emergency “fusible link” that could be opened should a true catastrophe materialize. Blow a 150′ wide region that would erode fairly quickly down to the lower lever of the weir. Charges could be set and timed for different levels/elevation of demolition as required. On another note, they would already be in place for the location of a an additional primary controlled/gated spillway. Great opportunity for pre-construction scouring.

    • Another contingency would be to have Air Force or National Guard prepare plans and preparation to blow emergency channel from the air. Pre-planning is essential but standby could have a lead time of a couple of days or more. Just need to be ready.

    • Total and complete bull$hit. The emergency spillway is in no danger of failing. It is concrete keyed to a good rock. Those will be there long after the soil washes away.

  93. Based on the video from this morning, the soil beneath the main spillway has now been scoured to bedrock, ready to be built up properly to form the foundation for the rebuilt spillway. All for free, gravity and sunlight did the entire job.

  94. Alert: In a stunting revelation Maxine Walters has shown the correlation between moist air being generated by Russia flowing through the Sea of Okhotsk and down to Hawaii forming the pineapple express that threatens to destroy California by washing the Capital of California out to sea. “This is a coordinated effort between Donald Trump and Putin!” senator Walters announced. /s

  95. Anthony is experiencing first hand the effects of translocation that can occur through climate change. I wonder though if accommodation would be so forthcoming if the refugees were a different religion or skin colour. I suspect not, given the Trump administration’s treatment of Syrian refugees. Some commentators have suggested that the Syrian civil war was partially attributable to climate change.

  96. The main spillway chute may have lifted and ruptured via the venturi effect. The water below the chute is static, while the water above is flowing at a great rate, reducing the pressure. It is the same differential flow that lifts a B747 into the air – 450 tonnes of metal hanging on a very small differential airflow.
    Not sure if engineers take the venturi effect lifting the concrete into account – rather than the more ‘logical’ weight pressing downwards. Saw this same thing happening at an airport. The apron was cracking so they laid enormous 2.5 cm thick sheets of steel on them as a temporary measure. A B-757 opened the taps a little to start taxying and it lifted this enormous great sheet of steel as if it was a piece of paper. This was not jet blast getting under the sheet, as the aircraft was above it – this was pure venturi differential pressure, just as you get on the upper surface of a wing.
    Any engineers out there know if construction engineers calculate for water venturi ‘suction’?

    • They’d need to deal with the ‘hydraulic jump’ where the flow transitions from laminar to turbulent which is definitely occurring based on the videos I’ve seen. Once the surface starts to break up then you’ll get the transition to turbulent flow which I would expect to greatly increase the erosion.

    • It would only apply if water with a similar head was also flowing below the spillway. Otherwise it is just a concrete through sitting on a lot of rocks. And putting several meters of water in a concrete through makes it heavier, not lighter.

      • There could be air or water below. The greater effect would be with water. The water below would be moving slowly enough that it’s velocity would be unimportant.

      • Not so. The same airport just mentioned also made the turnaround points at the end of the runway out of small bricks. God know why, I thought it a stupid idea when I saw them working.
        The first jet that took off tore up all the bricks and made a mess of its tail and of the ILS antenna array. Again, this was not an airflow blowing at the bricks – it was an airflow blowing over the top of the bricks and lifting them up via venturi-suction.

    • The ogee crown of a spillway takes this into account. It is likely that the designer of the spillway considered that shape in the transition from the flatter portion to the steeper and made the transition flatter than that. It is not likely he considered it otherwise.
      It is my offhand thought that the weight of the concrete is likely greater than the venturi effect, but I could be convinced by calculation.

  97. More rain on the way. Get a drilling rig over to the north parking lot and start drilling. Line holes w/ pvc pipe. Set one grid at 15′ depth 100′ width . Set next grid at 30′ depth 100 ‘ width. Set final grid along extreme north along road at 60′ depth and 100’ width.
    Whoever is appointed to press the button needs to answer the phone if it rings at 3:00 a.m.

    • The part of the spillway downstream of the parking lot is keyed 2 Ft into the rock. Damaging the parking lot will accomplish nothing.

  98. When the first hole was inspected they should have quickly applied thin steel sheets, drilled into the good concrete, covering the hole. Also, they did not need to leave the spillway closed for 36 hours. And they needed to open the spillway to 100,000 CFS much sooner. Why when 180,000 lives are at risk is no DWR person speaking to the media. That would have created better solutions.
    I’m sure that some DWR employee will have a comment for this website, but they will never post their real name. Or if they do they will reveal nothing.

  99. One last thought on the drama at the Oroville Dam. Back during the last major rain storm in 1996/97 the turbines were not shut down as there was no danger to the nearby transmission lines. At the same time the peak flow through the main spillway was around 160,000 cfs. That means the peak outflow at that time must have been close to twice the flow which has occurred during this winter’s rain storms.
    They were very worried back then because the spillway was flowing at max. The turbines were going full steam. Yet the water behind the dam came very close to going over the emergency spillway. Only the grace of God and the cessation of the rain kept everyone from finding out how weak the emergency spillway was. In light of that I can’t help but wonder why all of the experts could not come to the conclusion that it would be wise to beef up the emergency spillway, and to maintain proper inspection of the main spillway. That was a failure to assess the future risk, imo, as nature had just proven to them that the dam could be overtopped.

    • Goldminor,
      In that case the grids I mentioned in an above should be increased to 200′ widths each. Google Earth shows parking area could handle that increased demolition zone easily. I just checked it before you post your comment and I think it was about 800 ft or so. Anyway a few drilled holes w/ a pvc cap ain’t gonna hurt nuthin’. 😉

    • Not sure how it happened but your link gave me my local radar 4 time zones east of you. Anyway, I needed to check for rain.

      • It must have been able to find your locale, and then switched the map. Notice though that the main rain is up in Oregon. The fast moving northerly winds might be the saving factor in moving the main storm away from Northern California.

  100. I came across a fairly coherent engineering view of the situation by a dam expert here:
    I highly recommend the listening to the discussion. I know I learned a good deal.
    In addition, I believe the dam expert being interviewed, Scott Cahill, provided some pretty sound advice regarding public communications during emergency situations. I can say, having had been on the management team during two declared national emergencies involving chemical weapons, his approach to public communications is precisely how we handled the public communications.

    • Good that they have some room for more water. The rain is passing through the area in which I live, which is around 100 miles to the west and a little north. Although, so far it is a light rain. The Trinity Alps have a great snow cover, along with the surrounding mountains. Snow levels are down to around 3500 feet. Two years ago in February there was zero snow anywhere in the mountains, even on the peaks at 7500+ feet. That was a bit incredible. The Alps used to have glaciers a decade ago.

  101. and the arrogance of mankind
    Carl Pope of Eco Watch
    ‘Now the Feather has shown its strength again. The scariest thing is that once the main spillway failed the emergency spillway began eating out the dam while it was carrying less than 5 percent of its 350,000 cubic feet per second design rating. This strongly suggests that many, perhaps most, of America’s dams, are reliant on engineering assumptions which will not withstand the test of extreme weather unleashed by climate change’.
    and the arrogance of Man

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