Last year, the American Southwest was amid a drought so severe, it left some questioning the logistics behind maintaining such sprawling cities in such an arid region. Residents of California and surrounding states looked to the skies in shared hope; without a significant increase in rainfall, their homes and ways of life would face dramatic changes. Then, as though the heavens chose to answer the pleas of California residents, the skies began to open up and reservoirs and basins filled once more. But the skies didn’t stop, and on Monday, the Department of Defense announced that they are prepared to assist in evacuation and rescue operations in Northern California as a failing dam struggles to restrain the immense amount of water threatening its surrounding community.
“The dam is failing, and evacuation orders have been given to close to 200,000 people in the area,” Navy Captain Jeff Davis said in an announcement on Monday. “While the [water] depths are reported to be decreasing, we do note that rain is expected later this week.”
According to Davis, who serves as a spokesman for the Defense Department, the U.S. Northern Command (NorthCom) is coordinating with the California National Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in preparation for the possibility of a serious dam failure that could place the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans in danger.
The Oroville Dam, the tallest such structure in the United States, continues to hold, but its emergency spillway suffered serious damage only identified last week. The damaged spillway prompted an immediate evacuation order for cities and counties surrounding Lake Oroville. A complete failure of the dam could result in a wall of water, thirty feet high, cascading down the river bed and through surrounding communities.