Tuesday, February 14, 2017

More on the Oroville Dam

The Atlantic:

 A crater in the middle of the primary spillway at the Oroville Dam (California Department of Water Resources via Reuters)
This winter has seen much more snow and rain, which is good news for the parched state, but bad news for the Oroville Dam, where huge amounts of water are collecting. The lake rose 50 feet in a matter of days. Earlier in February, as operators let water over a concrete spillway to reduce the pressure, a crater appeared in the spillway. Faced with too much water in the lake, they continued to use the spillway anyway, and the damage got worse. On Friday, the crater was 45 feet deep, 300 feet wide, and 500 feet long.
There’s a backup for the concrete spillway, an auxiliary spillway that had never been used. It’s really just a hillside sloping down from the reservoir, covered in brush and trees. As the situation became more dire last week, crews starting clearing the slope for its first baptism. Managers hoped pressing the auxiliary spillway into service would give them time to patch up the concrete spillway over what’s expected to be a drier season. (That could be easier said than done: Snowpack upstream is 150 percent of normal for this time of year, meaning there’s going to be more melt headed downstream than normal.)
Initially, that seemed to do the trick: The water level in Lake Oroville was dropping, and the danger seemed to be abating. On Sunday, however, officials noticed the auxiliary spillway was starting to erode—at the same time that huge amounts of water continued to flow into the lake. The fear is that if the spillway gives out, a wall of water could push down out of Lake Oroville and toward lower ground. Workers are trying to shore up the emergency spillway with bags of rocks, including dropping them from helicopters. If it gives way, the Feather River would flood downstream, and might wash out other levees farther down the river. Meanwhile, debris from erosion also forced the  state Department of Water Resources, the dam’s operator, to shut down its power plant, which could have helped to release some additional water. And there’s rain forecast for later this week.
 Los Angeles Times:
 Crews work on a damaged section of the emergency spillway at Lake Oroville on Monday.
(Josh Edelson / AFP/ Getty Images)
In the five days from Feb. 6 to Friday, Oroville received more than 6 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service. The surrounding mountains and foothills received up to 24 inches of rain and snow in the same time period.
The storm’s runoff sent water into the Oroville reservoir at an average rate of 115,260 cubic feet per second, data show. The lake’s water level climbed 50 feet in five days.
In addition to the crisis at Oroville Dam, several levees throughout the region have seen structural damage, adding to the flood threat, Dang said. Many reservoirs in Northern California are having to release large amounts of water, causing rivers to rise.
Portions of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers are at or near flood stage, he said. The Feather River, downstream from Lake Oroville, has seen flooding for several days.
Although this week’s storms are expected to be smaller, they’re “certainly impactful,” Dang said.
“The storms last week have really left Northern California in a vulnerable state right now, and any amount of rainfall isn’t helpful at this stage.”
Forecasters say there is a potential for another series of strong storms in Northern California early next week that could bring additional flooding, though they are less confident about the specifics because it is still early, Dang said.
Also from the Times:

The emergency spillway begins discharging at 901 feet, so at its peak, the lake level was more than 19 inches above that.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Spring Is Here

Sure, astronomy and groundhogs may disagree, but Reds pitchers and catchers report to spring training camp today, so spring is here.  Also, there is bock beer on the grocery shelves.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Oroville Dam Spillway Failure 'Expected'

 Water flows over the damaged main spillway at Lake Oroville and into the Feather River in Oroville, Calif., on Saturday. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

LA Times:
Residents of Oroville and nearby towns were ordered to immediately evacuate on Sunday afternoon after a “hazardous situation” developed involving an emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam.
The National Weather Service said the auxiliary spillway at the Oroville Dam was expected to fail by 5:45 p.m., which could send an “uncontrolled release of flood waters from Lake Oroville.”
Those in Oroville were asked to flee northward toward Chico. In Yuba County, those in the valley areas were urged to take routes to the east, south, or west.
“This is not a drill. This is not a drill. Repeat this is not a drill,” the National Weather Service said. Authorities urged residents to contact neighbors and family members and reach out to the elderly and assist them in evacuating.
The Butte County Sheriff’s Department and the state Department of Water Resources said the failure of the auxiliary spillway — a 1,700-foot-long hillside route — was caused by “severe erosion.”
The evacuations marked a dramatic turn of events at the nation’s tallest dam. For several days, officials have been trying to figure out how to get water out of Lake Oroville after the main spillway was damaged.
The emergency spillway had never been used before — and until the last few hours it seemed to be working well. Video from television helicopters showed water flowing into a parking lot next to the dam, with large flows going down both the damaged main spillway and the emergency spillway.
The water is flowing into the Feather River, which runs through downtown Oroville and other communities. Water levels were rising on the river.
Wow, that is very scary.  I'll follow up tomorrow.

NASA Photo of the Day

February 8:

The Butterfly Nebula from Hubble
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble, HLA; Reprocessing & Copyright: Jesús M.Vargas & Maritxu Poyal
Explanation: The bright clusters and nebulae of planet Earth's night sky are often named for flowers or insects. Though its wingspan covers over 3 light-years, NGC 6302 is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the dying central star of this particular planetary nebula has become exceptionally hot, shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust. This sharp close-up of the dying star's nebula was recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope and is presented here in reprocessed colors. Cutting across a bright cavity of ionized gas, the dust torus surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to the line-of-sight. Molecular hydrogen has been detected in the hot star's dusty cosmic shroud. NGC 6302 lies about 4,000 light-years away in the arachnologically correct constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpius).

Mid-February Links

The crazy continues unabated in DC.  Here are some links that are a little more enlightening than the shit coming out of the White House:

The End of Scarcity in Agricultural Commodities Means Failing Farms in the U.S.  - Big Picture Agriculture.  Hard times are a comin'.

1,000 Years Ago, Corn Made This Society Big. Then, A Changing Climate Destroyed It - The Salt

How fancy cheese may save some small-scale dairies - Harvest Public Media

America's Biggest Asphalt Plant Is Shutting When the Country Might Need It Most - Bloomberg

 "This Is My Town" - Slate.  A review of Glass House, a book covering the decline of Anchor Hocking, a glassmaker based in Lancaster, Ohio.

The New Face of American Unemployment - Bloomberg

Evacuations ordered below Oroville Dam; failure of emergency spillway is possible - Los Angeles Times.  I haven't heard anybody mention them yet, but I'd also be worried about levees in the Sacramento River delta.

The Myth of Apple's Great Design - The Atlantic

Speaker of Record-The man behind the fiscal fiasco in Illinois - Reuters. Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

What Steve Bannon Wants You To Read - Politico

Trump's Labor Pick Loves Burgers, Bikinis and Free Markets - Bloomberg.  Warning: The top photo may cost you your lunch.  The ones further down are much, much better.

Why Trump's Conflicts of Interest Won't Hurt Him - The New Yorker.  Compares Trump to James Traficant.  Considering voter support in the Mahoning Valley helped propel Trump to the White House, the comparison is apt.

Breitbart alumni shape the message at Trump's White House - The World.  If you can listen to that interview and not consider Sebastian Gorka the most overbearing asshole ever, I don't want to drink a beer with you.

GOP Plan to Overhaul Tax Code Gets Held Up at the Border - Wall Street Journal

The Next American Farm Bust Is Upon Us - Wall Street Journal.  It is going to get worse before it gets better.