OROVILLE, Calif. (KGO) --Crews have managed to lower the level of Lake Oroville by 15 feet in order to allow repairs of the damaged dam's spillways, but the clock was ticking as another round of storms headed in their direction.
Mandatory evacuations remain in place today for 188,000 people living below the Oroville Dam. Officials are stressing the dam itself is safe. But the concern is over the dam's emergency spillway is at risk of failing. Crews are still racing to fill a giant hole that opened up.
They hope to drop the lake by 50 feet before rain this week. FEMA has mobilized a 24-hour task force to work with the other agencies. Evacuees are being told to prepare to be out of their homes for days. possibly weeks. Officials say once they know when the evacuation order will be lifted, they will announce a plan for people to return in an orderly manner.
A relay of helicopters started moving dirt, rocks and concrete onto the crumbling emergency spillway while keeping an eye on the damaged main spillway using tools as sophisticated as night-vision goggles.
Downtown Oroville is mostly evacuated; all but a few businesses are closed. Local police are among the few cars on the road, checking to make sure that looters don't move in while thousands of residents are away. The business owners are hoping their storefronts stay safe. They lined their doors with sandbags before leaving downtown Oroville. There are several locations in throughout Butte County for people to pick up their sandbags.
RELATED: Water level drops at Oroville Dam, evacuations continue
Governor Brown says he is watching the Oroville Dam crisis very closely, and is offering the praise for the people making repairs. He says he has not shown up in Oroville because he does not want second guess those making efforts.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer addressed the situation Tuesday morning. "The President has been keeping a close eye on the Oroville Dam situation in California. In order to prevent the next disaster we will pursue the president's vision for an overhaul of our nation's crumbling infrastructure. We hope everyone remains safe as the evacuations continue. And will be working with FEMA and appropriate government entities to make sure we are doing everything we can to attend to this matter."
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom toured the emergency operations yesterday. He said the emergency in Oroville is a wake-up call -- and warned the Shasta Dam in Redding has similar problems. That reservoir is the largest in California.
VIDEO: Oroville Dam emergency spillway at risk of failing
A federal official reveals that the Oroville Dam has been running under a series of temporary licenses for about 10 years. Its old permit, which was good for 50 years, expired in 2007. The State Department of Water Resources applied for a new 50 year permit before the old one expired. The federal agency that approves those permits says it just received all the information it needs this past December. There's no word on why it took so long to gather that information.
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