More than 180,000 evacuate in Oroville crisis

For more than 180,000 evacuees from the Oroville dam crisis, Monday was a second night in a shelter, hotel, car or camper.

"I know everybody here is feeling the same way, I want to go home," James Mallory of Oroville told KTVU at the evacuation shelter at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico.

Mallory was among more than 1,200 people who bedded down on cots, spread among five buildings.

The American Red Cross is also offering medical care and hot meals.

"We're kind of freaked out, but we're good, " Esther Barrett told KTVU, alongside her ten year old son Aidan.

They are worried about the animals they abandoned at home Sunday night, and anxious about what's next.  

"I'm worried about it happening again," said Aidan softly.

The two have also encountered some confusion. "Some people are saying roads are open, and some say not," observed Esther, "but when I tried to get back home to Oroville today, they won't let you in." Chico is only a half hour from Oroville, but the shelter feels unfamiliar.

No privacy, long lines, and food and beds in short supply.   

"It was unfortunate the last cots didn't show up until 3 am, so we had a lot of older people slumping in their chairs," volunteer Bob Mulholland told KTVU.

Mulholland was part of a wave to local volunteers who headed to the fairgrounds to help as soon as they heard about the evacuation.

"Chico people, I've been watching them all day, and they just keep coming, carload after carload dropping stuff off."

Schools will be closed the entire week, and some teachers are spending their free time assisting as well.

"It's tough because people want things and there is only so much to go around, " Rich Hogan told KTVU, clutching an armload of sleeping bags for distribution.

Hogan teaches science at Oroville High School.

"We are trying to triage who's really in need and who isn't, and and get things to the children and elderly first," explained Hogan.

Before bedtime Monday, more than a half-dozen students from Cal State Chico arrived to help hand-out donated clothing and blankets.

"I had a lady come up and hug me, and people saying thank you so much for all the hard work, " smiled CSU student Gary Greenwald. "For all of us, it's feels great to come out to help people in a situation on one hopes to be in."  

Evacuees have been warned to expect to be out of their homes for a week, maybe longer.

Some say it's been tough shaking off the trauma of how they fled in fear of a huge washout.

"I just kind of panicked because I kids who were not at home, and they were not answering their phones, and I wanted them out of there, " mom Lisa Behan of Yuba City told KTVU. The parking lot at the fairgrounds is packed, with many evacuees choosing to sleep in their vehicles.

Some don't want to be separated from their pets, which are housed separately at the shelter.

"This is so sad and emotional, " evacuee Ted Cottini told KTVU, spending the night in his car with two relatives and two dogs.

"I just sit here sometimes, just crying," he admitted.

Chaplains are available to offer counseling to evacuees. 

Many people said they are encouraged by progress reports that show the dam situation is stable and improving.       

"It's really scary to think that much water could come down at once, on everybody you know," said James Mallory somberly.