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Mass evacuation below Oroville Dam as officials frantically try to make repairs before new storms

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 2/13/2017 Chris Megerian, Paige St. John, Melanie Mason, Bettina Boxall

"This is not a drill. Repeat this is not a drill,” the National Weather Service said Sunday, urging people living below Oroville Dam to evacuate.

More than 100,000 people were told to evacuate because of a “hazardous situation” involving the Northern California dam's emergency spillway. At one point, the NWS warned that the auxiliary spillway was expected to fail and could send an “uncontrolled release of flood waters from Lake Oroville.” However, by late Sunday night, officials said the immediate threat had passed because water had stopped washing over the emergency spillway.

The mass evacuations cap a week of frantic efforts to prevent flooding as the reservoir behind America’s tallest dam reached capacity and its main spillway was severely damaged.

A damaged spillway with eroded hillside is seen in an aerial photo taken over the Oroville Dam in Oroville A damaged spillway with eroded hillside is seen in an aerial photo taken over the Oroville Dam in Oroville On Saturday, water levels rose so high that an emergency spillway was used for the first time. Officials initially believed the measure worked. But Sunday afternoon, as more water from record storms flowed into Lake Oroville, officials detected a hole in the emergency spillway and eventually ordered the evacuations.

By late Sunday, the crisis at the Oroville Dam eased somewhat, as the water level at the reservoir dropped. That halted water flow from a damaged emergency spillway that officials feared could collapse. But officials stressed that the situation is still dangerous and that evacuations should continue.

A failure of the emergency spillway could cause huge amounts of water to flow into the Feather River, which runs through downtown Oroville, and other waterways.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency order aimed at bolstering the state's response to the crisis.

A list of evacuation centers can be found here .

PHOTOS: Sinkhole on spillway of Oroville Dam

VIDEO: Lake Oroville overflow sends debris down the Feather River

Lake Oroville water level declining

The chart below shows how the water level at the Oroville reservoir has been reduced over the last 24 hours.

According to a spokesman for the Department of Water Resources, water is pouring down the facility's damaged main spillway at a rate of about 100,000 cubic feet per second.

By 10 a.m., the lake's water level was 4 feet lower than the emergency spillway, which suffered damage during its first ever water release over the weekend.

New views of Oroville Dam's damaged spillways

Here are some new photos from this morning of the situation at the Oroville Dam.

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