Race against the weather to avoid disaster at California's Oroville Dam

Authorities lifted mandatory evacuation orders Tuesday for communities below the Oroville Dam.

Lake Oroville had water levels so high due to recent storms that an emergency spillway was used Saturday for the first time in the dam's almost 50-year history. While the dam itself is structurally sound, last week a hole caused by erosion was discovered on the main spillway. Officials said they plan to use bags of rocks to plug the hole in the emergency spillway, but the situation is still precarious.

Meanwhile, the Butte County sheriff said in a statement posted on social media: "Immediate evacuation from the low levels of Oroville and areas downstream is ordered, This is NOT A Drill". Once Lake Oroville reached capacity, officials from California's Department of Water Resources began utilizing the dam's spillway - a structure that provides the controlled release of water.

The Oroville Dam has suffered serious damage since a hole opened up in the main spillway over the weekend.

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Lake Oroville is one of California's largest man-made lakes, and the dam is 335-metres tall.

As people begin returning to their homes around Lake Oroville and downstream along the Feather River, forecasters are predicting the next rounds of wet weather, projected to move in Thursday, won't be as strong as the storms that led to problems in Oroville.

Reportedly, large population residing in areas being evacuated is that of Indian origin Americans.

Several Northern California towns dodged a fatal bullet Sunday night when a weakened auxiliary spillway at Oroville Dam - the nation's highest - didn't collapse.

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California Department of Water Resources personnel monitor water flowing through a damaged spillway on the Oroville Dam in Oroville, California. Gridley and Live Oak were included in the evacuation alert on Sunday evening.

Governor Jerry Brown has sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting further federal aid for the Oroville Dam emergency.

Honea called the evacuation order a "critical, hard decision" and said he recognized it would cause significant dislocations and traffic jams, which it did. Storms are forecast for later this week, and officials said they need to keep draining water from the lake for as long as possible.

However, as the water was rushing into the emergency spillway, authorities found out that it, too, was eroding. Lake Oroville is the main reservoir of California's State Water Project, which supplies water for more than half the state's 39 million residents and for millions of acres of farmland in the leading agricultural state.

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"Once you have damage to a structure like that it's catastrophic", Bill Croyle, acting director of the water resources department, told a press conference.

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