OROVILLE (CBS SF) — Residents evacuated from the area downstream from the Oroville Dam began making their way back home Tuesday afternoon following two days of nerve-wracking uncertainty.
Nearly 200,000 people from Butte and Yuba counties were asked to leave their homes behind Sunday afternoon when officials decided the danger of an eroding emergency spillway on the Oroville Dam was too dangerous to risk.
Early Tuesday evening, the slow trickle of evacuees filing back in to Oroville with relief written on their faces continued, even if the Feather River was still raging just a few yards away.
“We are just going to reevaluate. We are ready to go if we need to again, but for now we are just glad to be home,” said evacuee Rachael Young.
Young and her family were some of the first people back in downtown Oroville. Her neighbor, Dave Seemore had also returned.
Seemore and his son were watching Tuesday afternoon’s press conference when the announcement was made. As soon as they got the go ahead, they raced home from a friend’s house in the hills.
“I’m relieved. I can go in there and make my bed and relax,” said Seemore.
They likely feel the same way thousands of other people do who have been away from their houses for the last 48 hours.
Spending their time since Sunday afternoon in shelters, hotels or the homes of loved ones without a timeline to tell them when they can return to their lives, everyone is looking forward to returning to some semblance of normalcy.
“I’m headed back to the hills, but had to buy a Valentine’s gift, though everything is closed,” laughed returned evacuee David Van Dorin.
CHP removed their roadblocks by midday. Once the official word was out, those ready to come home did so, heaving a sigh of relief.
“I’m saying hi to everybody I thought I’d never see again,” said returned evacuee John Gattavara
Linda Evans thought she’d seen the last of her home.
“We live right on the river, I’m not kidding you, said Evans. You look out our front window and you can hear it rushing and you can see it!”
“The last few days has been stressful,” said evacuee Frank Rascon. “A lot of mental stress, just watching the news.”
And though everyone were happy to be back in town, they are still keeping their guard up.
“We just came back to get our stuff out,” said returned Oroville resident Adriana Fuentes. “We’re not going to stay here, because there could be more stuff that could happen. It’s still going to rain.”
“I don’t want to be under that dam if it’s not safe,” said returned evacuee Carolyn Chapman. “But you know, they been working on it for two days now and it seems to be holding.”
Traffic returning didn’t seem to be as thick as it was leaving as the town gradually began to fill back up, but there were some possible reasons for that.
In addition to those residents who have decided to keep their distance from the dam until all of the repair work is completed, some people are likely staying away due to the fact that schools, government offices and some businesses are set to remain closed until next week.