Oroville Dam Spillway Wide-Open as Heatwave May Cause Rapid Snowmelt

Oroville Dam spillway rainbow (Elijah Nouvelage / Getty)
Elijah Nouvelage / Getty

Oroville Dam’s spillway was forced to reopen at maximum flow as over 50,000 cubic feet per second of water careened into the lake and weather scientists warned of an impending 7 to 10-day heatwave that could cause flooding from an accelerated snowmelt.

Water inflow at Lake Oroville on April 14 at 3 p.m. was a stunning 51,378 cubic feet per second, up from 15,000 cubic feet just 48 hours earlier. With the water level rising to 865.84 feet, just 4.14 feet from the danger zone, California Department of Water Resources engineers opened the dam’s gates and started continuously releasing water at down the nearly-destroyed spillway at its top rate of 35,069 cubic feet per second.

Breitbart News reported that the Northern Sierras on April 13 set an all-time record of 89.7 inches of precipitation for the 2016-7 water year. We warned that a new series of Northern California storms through the Easter holidays was expected to bring heavy rain and hail to the lower elevations, and up to 6 inches of new snow above 3,000-foot level.

Breitbart News also reported that Eldridge M. Moores, California’s preeminent expert regarding tectonic plate movements in mountain belts, told KQED that the main reason Oroville Dam’s spillway failed and almost took down the dam itself was due to the structural flaw of using deteriorating incompetent rock 60-years ago to anchor the spillway, rather than fresh rock granite that could have lasted up to a 1,000 years.

The California Department of Water Resources declared a very significant risk if repairs to the damaged spillways were not completed and both spillways fully-operational for the next rainy season that begins on November 1. The large construction crew that has been feverishly trying to repair the spillway, was removed just hours before it reopened.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency now forecasts that the strong heating pattern in of the equatorial Pacific Ocean will develop this summer into an El Niño, creating a high probability of a wet 2017-18 water year that begins on November 1.

In another dangerous development,  UCLA climate scientist and author of the Water West blog, Daniel Swain, posted images taken from space by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Forecast Satellite System that has identified a high probability of a potential 7 to 10-day heat wave bearing down on northern California.

Swain warned that of a major snowmelt across the Sierras. He warned that a Hurricane Katrina-level flood risk could develop along eastern slopes of Sierra Nevada Mountains over the coming weeks. He highlighted that that the melting snowpack on the Nevada side could send 500 billion gallons of water into the swollen Walker and Carson rivers.


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