Evacuation centers slowly shut down; Cal Expo and Silver Dollar Fairgrounds remain
1:45 p.m.: As residents return home to the areas affected by the Oroville Dam spillway threat, evacuation centers are winding down. The Nevada County Office of Emergency Services says that most evacuees have left the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
According to Nevada County, the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico and Cal Expo in Sacramento remain open.
Mail carriers back on the job in formerly evacuated areas
9:35 a.m.: U.S. Postal Service carriers will be delivering mail once again in areas that had to be evacuated due to the emergency at the Oroville Dam.
Evacuation orders put delivery on hold for residents in Oroville and other towns.
With the lifting of evacuation orders, mail delivery resumed Wednesday.
"We would like to thank the public for their patience and understanding," said Ashleigh Rodriguez, manager of post office operations for the Sacramento district.
High winds may ground choppers
9:10 a.m.: High winds on Thursday may ground helicopters being used to place rock in erosion areas near the emergency spillway for the Oroville Dam.
The state Department of Water Resources said crews are placing 1,200 tons of material on the emergency spillway each hour. The bulk of the placement of aggregate is being done by trucks.
However, helicopters have been instrumental in delicately placing heavy bags of rock in hard to-get-to spots below the emergency spillway. The National Weather Service predicts calm winds Wednesday.
On Thursday, rain and high winds are forecast. Winds are expected to blow from the south at 20 mph with gusts as high as 26 mph.
Gas cards needed for evacuees to return home
7:35 a.m.: A request is being made for $25 gas cards so that some Oroville Dam evacuees can get back home.
About 100 people who had to get out when an evacuation order was issued in the wake of the erosion around the dam emergency spillway are still at the Placer County Fairgrounds.
Some of them have empty tanks and have missed several days of work. Placer County officials say that $25 gas cards would be greatly appreciated.
Bring the cards to the fairgrounds, 800 All American City Blvd., Roseville.
Crews fortify area below emergency spillway
7:20 a.m.: Crews worked through the night to shore up the emergency spillway at Lake Oroville, racing to fortify the structure before a change to rainy weather predicted for late tonight.
“We continue to armor up the hillside,” said Chris Orrock, state Department of Water Resources spokesman. “That is our main concern.”
Helicopters will return to the sky this morning to drop bags of gravel at sensitive spots below the dam’s emergency spillway. Crews are also dumping boulders on erosion points and placing slurry on the hillside.
However, once the rain starts, those efforts will have to stop.
Dam operators are on pace to reach the 848-feet lake level by Saturday night or Sunday. An effort has been made for several days to drain down the lake since it reached 902 feet on the weekend.
Dam operators are expecting the storm to deliver inflows of 40,000 to 60,000 cubic feet per second, but outflows over the main spillway will be kept at 100,000 cfs.
By comparison, last week’s storm inflow peaked at 197,000. The storm predicted for Thursday and Friday is expected to be colder, which means more mountain snow and less rain flowing into the reservoir.
Asked if officials feel confident about how the shoring up work has gone, Orrock said, “We are making progress.”
Meanwhile, life is slowly returning to normal in Oroville. Grocery stores are open, traffic is flowing and people are returning to their homes.
Schools in evacuation area will be closed all week
7 a.m.: Schools in the evacuation area - Yuba and Sutter counties, as well as Butte County except for Chico and Paradise - will remain closed this week as families and districts return to a sense of normalcy. Most schools have Monday off as a scheduled Presidents Day holiday, so classes are expected to resume Tuesday.
Two days of rain headed for Oroville
6:25 a.m.: While nearly 100,000 cubic feet per second of water pours out of Lake Oroville, residents and dam operators are looking at increasingly cloudy skies in advance of two days of rain.
An upper high pressure ridge that has delivered blue skies to Oroville is giving way to a developing storm. The Sacramento Valley could see from a half inch to 1.5 inches of precipitation, while the foothills and mountains could see up to 4 inches of rain or snow.
The storm is looking colder than previously projected, according to the National Weather Service. That is good news for the efforts to drain a considerable amount from Lake Oroville.
The more precipitation in the form of snow means less runoff into the lake. The NWS on Wednesday is forecasting that snow levels will hover around 5,500 feet elevation level.
Lake Oroville now 21 feet below lip of emergency spillway
6 a.m.: With evacuees waking up in their own beds for the first time since Sunday, construction crews are still dropping rock and other material on the emergency spillway to reinforce the structure before the next storm arrives tonight.
The state Department of Water Resources said late Tuesday that 125 crews are working around the clock to place 1,200 tons of material per hour on the spillway.
Lake Oroville has fallen to 880 feet as of 5 a.m., 21 feet below the lip of the emergency spillway, according to state data. State water officials continue to dump water down the damaged main spillway at a rate of nearly 100,000 cubic feet per second to clear space in the reservoir ahead of upcoming rain. They want to avoid lake levels rising to a point where water heads back over the emergency spillway.
The National Weather Service predicts that rain will arrive “mainly after 10 p.m.” tonight in the Oroville region and that it “could be heavy at times.”
Rain is also predicted in the extended forecast through Tuesday. All eyes will also be on snowfall in the mountains and whether the storm is colder than last week’s warm system, which led to heavy runoff from the mountains that helped fill reservoirs in the Valley.