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Climate Change Could Lead To More Incidents Like The Oroville Dam Spillway Failures, Experts Warn


Ezra David Romero / Capital Public Radio The California Department of Water Resources says it has completed the demolition of the top 730 feet of the spillway that failed in February of 2017. Nearly 200,000 people were evacuated when the spillways failed at Oroville Dam in 2017, an infrastructure disaster that cost around a billion dollars to repair.

Three years later scientists say events that partially led to the incident could become more frequent. It comes down to how and when snow and rain fall.

With Oroville, there was unusually deep snow in the Sierra Nevada, which was later melted by a four-day warm wet storm known as an atmospheric river, according to Brian Henn, former researcher at the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Oceanography.

“That’s a long time to have sort of a plume of warm, moist air pointed at one particular area,” Henn said of the about 27 inches of rain the storm produced. “The amount of runoff into Lake Oroville was like the second highest in the last 30 years.”

All that rain falling on existing snow resulted in as much as 36 inches of water filling California’s second largest reservoir,straining its capacity, Henn says.

“Without the […]

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