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Disaster Alert: Dam Compromise in California - Already 4K Seeking Emergency Shelter

Dear Red Cross Friends and Partners:

A very serious situation is unfolding in California due to a compromise in the structure of the Oroville Dam system in Butte County, California, officials ordered a no-notice mandatory evacuation on Sunday of about 188,000 residents in 4 counties (Yuba, Butte, Sutter, & Nevada). The Oroville Dam is the tallest dam in the United States, and is a critical piece of the state’s water system. A gaping hole appeared in the dam’s main spillway last week, and that prompted state officials to begin releases over the emergency spillway for the first time in the reservoir’s history. Erosion has compromised the emergency spillway and that’s driving the inundation threat and evacuations. Additionally, this is the state’s second-largest reservoir, so significant damage could have a much broader impact on California’s water supply.

At the moment these are precautionary evacuations; however, the Red Cross is already incurring significant costs to shelter, feed and respond to this significant threat. There are at least 12 open shelters with a population now approaching or exceeding 4,000. We began moving significant human and materiel resources last night—over 150 Red Cross staff and volunteers are on the ground this morning and numerous shelter and shelter support trailers have arrived and will continue to arrive today. More resources are inbound. We’re feeding with Salvation Army, the Southern Baptists, and local vendors.

If a catastrophic failure of the dam occurs the early estimates are that the Red Cross will need to shelter and care for 20,000 people and damage to property would be astronomical in cost. The best case scenario is that the dam breach does not worsen and the Red Cross shelters upwards of 6,000 for about 2 weeks.

This is an ever-changing situation that needs close monitoring. The American Red Cross is already in need of financial support for this response. Further updates will be provided as conditions warrant.

Stay safe everyone!