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Oroville Dam Spillway: Evacuees Tell Their Stories

The American Red Cross remains on the ground in California helping hundreds of people still in shelters after this week’s mandatory evacuation order for almost 200,000 people near the Oroville Dam spillway. The region is expected to see as much as nine inches of rain in the next few days. Red Cross workers will remain in place in the event that anyone has to leave their homes again.

Local officials stated that the area remains under an evacuation warning - that residents need to be ready to leave their homes again if the situation changes. While many people returned home, some decided to stay in the shelters for now. Thursday night more than 420 people took refuge in 3 Red Cross and community shelters. Currently, hundreds of disaster workers are providing shelter, meals and comfort, and relief supplies are in place to support thousands of people.

Red Cross health and mental health service volunteers have already provided about 1,000 services to those with medical conditions such as helping replace medications. Ten Red Cross emergency response vehicles are on the scene to help provide meals and snacks. The Red Cross and its partners have provided more than 17,000 meals and snacks.

The situation remains tense for many evacuees who aren’t sure when or if they should return home. Here are a few of their stories:

GRATEFUL FOR SHELTER One family staying in the Red Cross shelter in Chico, California is no stranger to being evacuated. Donna and her family recently moved to the Oroville area from Lake County, and have evacuated to Red Cross shelters in the past, including for the Clayton Fire in 2016.

The California resident described how she heard about the evacuation orders in Oroville, and left as soon as she could. “I grabbed two blankets, food I could make without a stove, and that was it.” Donna, her husband, and Angelo arrived at the Red Cross shelter on Tuesday night after having slept in their car the night before. “I commend the Red Cross – you guys have been great,” she added.

RECALLS PANIC OF EVACUATING Sharon is staying at the Red Cross shelter in Chico. She recalled the evacuation experience as pure panic. “I just knew it was serious enough that [local authorities] were crying out the emergency.” She had little information and as she drove to the Red Cross shelter, couldn’t help but think through worst case scenarios. She recalled wondering in panic, “Am I on high enough ground? Will I make it?”

Sharon is very thankful to be staying at the Red Cross shelter, and for the support services she’s received since arriving. “When we arrived here, a thousand of us, you guys fed us, housed us and kept us safe. There’s always someone here to talk with you and calm your spirits. I’ve never seen such an important and impressive display of hope than what the Red Cross is doing,” she added.

26- MILE HIKE TO SAFETY When Harry and Marcie first heard the evacuation orders they started driving to safety, but their car broke down. The couple walked about 26 miles to the Red Cross shelter in Chico. They found a safe place to stay and hot meals in the Red Cross shelter in Chico. Harry shared, “I want to say thanks to the Red Cross for their support and all the donations they’ve brought in.”

Harry is an Elder with ties to the Konkow and Maidu Native American Tribes. He is thankful for the support services he’s received not only from the Red Cross, but also the Native American community in the area during the evacuation orders. Marcie is concerned about the safety of her cousin who was camping near the Oroville Dam when the evacuation orders were issued. They have not heard from him and are worried about his safety.

BUILD A KIT The Red Cross urges everyone to follow any evacuation orders and Be Red Cross Ready - build a kit, make a plan and be informed. Full details are available on redcross.org. People can also download the Red Cross Emergency App to have safety information available on their mobile device, including open shelter locations, emergency weather alerts and flood safety information. Red Cross apps are available in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

FIND A SHELTER If someone needs to find a shelter, they can visit redcross.org or contact their local Red Cross Chapter. If someone is staying with friends or family, they can visit Red Cross shelters during the day for information or a hot meal.

MAKE A DONATION We are thankful to those who would like to donate items for people evacuated in California – but the Red Cross is not equipped to manage, support, and distribute donated items of food, clothing, or household goods. Instead, our priority is to get those affected settled at emergency shelters, and to provide supplies to meet immediate needs. Right now, the best way to help those affected is through a financial donation.

The Red Cross depends on donations to prepare for and provide immediate relief from disasters. Help people affected by California floods by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word CAFLOODS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these disasters.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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