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Damaged dam threatens Northern California towns

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Californians who were ordered to evacuate due to a threat from erosion at the tallest dam in the United States can now return home, after state crews working around the clock reinforced a drainage channel that was weakened by heavy rain.

Officials had ordered 188,000 people living downriver from the Oroville Dam to evacuate on Sunday, and they reduced that to an evacuation warning on Tuesday, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said.

That means people can move back to their homes, and businesses can reopen, but residents should be prepared to evacuate again if necessary, Honea told a news conference.

Both the primary and backup drainage channels of the dam, known as spillways, were damaged by a buildup of water that resulted from an extraordinarily wet winter in Northern California following years of severe drought.

The greater danger was posed by the emergency spillway, which was subject to urgent repairs in recent days. Though damaged, the primary spillway was still useable, officials said.

More rain was forecast through Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, but the state Department of Water Resources said the upcoming storms were unlikely to threaten the emergency spillway.

Evacuees received more good news from President Trump, who declared an emergency in the state, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate disaster relief efforts. (Reuters)

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