Members of FEMA Region 9's leadership team including the Acting Administrator get a briefing about the current state of affairs during the Oroville Dam Spillway incident in February 2017.

While much of California has been faced with historic drought, the last few weeks have been full of heavy rains and severe storms—a 180 degree turnaround.

This week, we’ve been focused on the spillways of the Oroville Dam—about 75 miles north of Sacramento—along with much of the rest of the country.

Spillways regulate the flow of water into or out of dams and when they are damaged by erosion, impacted by debris, or hindered in any way, there can be serious consequences—including potentially dangerous flooding.

The Oroville Dam’s primary spillway was damaged by unexpected erosion as a result of heavy rains and an emergency spillway has also been impacted. Two separate spillway concerns have created a unique situation.

To support the community, we have been in close contact with the state of California and its Department of Water Resources. Right now, we have liaison officers deployed to California’s state emergency operations center as well as the Department of Water Resources operations center.

One of our incident management assistance teams has also been deployed to the state emergency operations center, where they will provide expertise and assistance as requested. These teams contain subject matter experts and extra sets of hands for state leadership in a variety of fields, including planning and logistics. They’re invaluable in the first stages of any incident—including a unique and rapidly changing one like this.

As part of the initial response, local officials issued mandatory evacuation orders. And as shelters opened across areas of northern California, requests came in for cots, blankets, and other emergency supplies. Along with our partners, the Red Cross, we maintain caches of emergency supplies across the country and have worked to provide them as requested.

As the situation has evolved, mandatory evacuations were lifted and changed to evacuation warnings—where people who live in areas that may be impacted by potential flooding should be on alert and ready to evacuate at any time.

Oroville itself is a very unique place, one that is steeped in rich Gold Rush history like much of northern California. As this situation continues to change, we will continue to change with and adapt to it—working to help the state and its impacted citizens.