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ARES Volunteers Support Evacuation, Shelters, In Oroville, Dam Crisis:

from The ARRL Letter on February 16, 2017
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ARES Volunteers Support Evacuation, Shelters, In Wake of Oroville, California, Dam Crisis:

Sacramento Valley ARES Section Emergency Coordinator Greg Kruckewitt, KG6SJT, reported this week that Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers actively supported communication for the evacuation and sheltering of nearly 200,000 people living below the damaged Oroville Dam in rural California. The dam, on the Feather River east of Oroville, is the tallest in the US. Following a period of heavy rain, a section of the earthfill-embankment dam's spillway eroded, and authorities ordered residents living below the dam to evacuate, in case the dam should fail. Crews have been attempting to fill the eroded area with rock transported by helicopter. On February 14, authorities lifted the mandatory evacuation order, but said it could be re-imposed, if necessary. Residents returning home were advised to remain vigilant, should the situation again become critical, and some ARES activity continues.

"Things have really calmed down for now after the mandatory evacuation notice was reduced to an evacuation warning," Kruckewitt told ARRL on February 15. "At this time, only the Butte County ARES group is deployed to the Chico Fairgrounds to support the Red Cross -- possibly through the weekend." The Chico shelter will remain open until the next storms pass.

FEMA reported that the Kelly Ridge Powerhouse located below Oroville Dam is flooded and unsafe. "Any further flooding could result in the potential release of 500 gallons of turbine oil stored in tanks," the agency said on February 15.

Butte County ARES EC Dale Anderson, KK6EVX, was called out by the emergency operations center (EOC) on the evening of February 12. Six members of the Butte County ARES team have been deployed to the Red Cross evacuation shelter at the Chico fairgrounds. "ARC still wants us at the Chico Fairgrounds," Anderson told Kruckewitt on February 15. "We are down to one VHF unit and one operator on watch for now."

On February 12, Yuba/Sutter ARES EC Steve Sweetman, K6TAZ, opened and managed a net to provide information and gather reports of road closures or problems during the evacuation. The net received reports from radio amateurs who were evacuating. Traffic was reported to be very heavy, with a trip that would normally take 20 minutes extending into a "3-hour stop-and-go ordeal," Sweetman said. The net also gathered and disseminated information on where evacuees could get fuel. "This became a critical need, as the thousands of people evacuated their houses with 1-hour notice," Kruckewitt said. Sweetman provided shelter for 17 evacuees.

The Sacramento County EC Vince Cracchiolo, KI6NHP, was called into the Sacramento County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on February 13 as the Red Cross opened a shelter at Cal Expo in Sacramento. Kruckewitt said the Sacramento Valley Section received offers of help from hams outside of California. As of February 15, FEMA was reporting 16 shelters open with 2,606 occupants.

"All ARES groups in the section are on standby, if help is needed. So far, the dam is holding, and repair work is under way at last report," Kruckewitt said.

According to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR, evacuation orders were issued to residents surrounding Lake Oroville late Sunday afternoon. "DWR has been monitoring conditions at Lake Oroville's main and auxiliary spillways around the clock for signs of erosion that could threaten the integrity of the emergency spillway and allow large, uncontrolled flows to the Feather River," the agency says on its website.


The ARRL Letter

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