A week or so ago California officials ordered 200,000 people from a number of cities downstream from the Oroville Dam to evacuate. Those impacted by the potential failure of the nation’s tallest dam live in six counties and in 50,047 single and multi-family dwellings.
The dam’s potential failure comes from a 170 wide and 40 to 50-foot hole in the main spillway. Adding to the crisis is a deluge of water from storms some are jokingly comparing to the biblical story of Noah. The State Department of Water Resources runs the dam. Its director Bill Croyle said the main spillway cannot be repaired so an also deteriorating overflow spillway is being used to divert the water.
Both spillways will continue to deteriorate. That — however — is a better option than the entire dam giving away. “We’re seeing erosion as all that energy moves downhill. It’s hitting rocks and moving in different directions. It’s going to hit weathered material or soil and it’s going to carry it. That’s going to be a part of the normal process as we move forward,” Croyle said.
He also noted the dam’s water release of 60,000 cubic feet per second has made room for the rain being dumped for the next set of storms. And that’s good news for those 200,000 people who have now returned to their homes.
Crews — 96 of them — continue to work around the clock to stabilize the dam.
President Trump has approved federal emergency aid for the dam and put together a separate package to help the state with all the flooding from the recent storms. Though he didn’t mention the president by name, Governor Jerry Brown is pleased that Trump is helping. “I want to thank FEMA for moving quickly to approve our requests. This federal aid will get money and resources where it's needed most,” the governor said.
Insurers and the federal government are also breathing a heavy sigh of relief. CoreLogic said the value of those dwellings runs somewhere around $13.3 billion. Here’s a list of the potential damages:
||Number of Homes
Estimated RCV is reconstruction value and the total: $13,262,931,392
Those estimates are based on total destruction of homes in these cities:
• Yuba City
• Live Oak
Just 12% of the homes listed are in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Special Flood Hazard Area. They are required to carry flood insurance but the rest of the homes threatened are not.
Realistically looking at things, CoreLogic said the homes that are actually threatened number is 33,967 and the estimated reconstruction value — based on total destruction — is $9.8 billion. These homes are 20 to 60 miles from the dam.
Another 16,080 homes are less 20 miles from the dam. Their estimated reconstruction value is $3.5 billion.
Source links: Insurance Journal, Sacramento Bee, PropertyCasualty360.com, CNBC