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Beale AFB Takes in California Flood Threat Evacuees

This Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, aerial photo released by the California Department of Water Resources shows the damaged spillway with eroded hillside in Oroville, Calif. (William Croyle/California Department of Water Resources via
This Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, aerial photo released by the California Department of Water Resources shows the damaged spillway with eroded hillside in Oroville, Calif. (William Croyle/California Department of Water Resources via

Beale Air Force Base in northern California was sheltering several hundred evacuees from the Lake Oroville flood threat Monday, and the entire California National Guard has been put on alert as the military gears up for an emergency response.

The base opened its gates to evacuees from local communities Sunday night, and by Monday was caring for more than 400 people. "This was an immediate and emergency action to support a portion of the 180,000 evacuees of the Oroville Dam emergency situation," the base said in a release.

"Team Beale understands the hardships many are enduring during this crisis, and we want to offer all of the aid we can," it said in a Facebook post.

The base is working with the California Office of Emergency Services to help residents who need long-term and specialized care. "Shelter, food, and water are being provided to those affected by this crisis," Beale said in the release.

"At the current time and per the direction of the Yuba County Office of Emergency Services, personnel in need of shelter should proceed to Wheatland High School or the Placer County Fairgrounds," Col. Christopher Stricklin, 9th Reconnaissance Wing vice commander, said in an update Monday afternoon.

"The members of Beale Air Force Base are a vital part of the local community and understand the struggle the current situation is placing on the area. While we are proud to assist and open our gates in response to an immediate crisis, we have limited resources. We stand at the ready to assist in the future as the need exceeds the local community capacity," he said.

The base, about 40 miles north of Sacramento, has also authorized transit across the installation for residents seeking higher ground. Beale is home to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing of the Air Combat Command and its inventory of U-2 Dragon Lady spy planes and RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles.

At the Pentagon on Monday, officials said that the 23,000 members of the California National Guard have been put on alert for possible response to the flood threat from overflowing Lake Oroville in northern California.

"We are watching that situation very carefully," said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. He said the entire California National Guard is on alert status, and "we are leaning forward and ready to assist with this if needed."

Thousands of California residents have already been evacuated from the area in Butte County about 75 miles north of Sacramento in the upper Central Valley. The fear is that an emergency spillway from the lake could fail and send a 30-foot wall of water down the Feather River Basin.

The 770-foot Lake Oroville Dam, the highest in the nation, is in sound condition, California officials said, but the dam is structurally separate from the reservoir spillways. Officials fear the earthen spillway will not be able to handle the overflow with more rain expected later this week.

California Gov. Jerry Brown can call up the National Guard and also request assistance from the National Guards of other states, Davis said. For Title 10 federal military assistance, Brown would go through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Region 9 in northern California and then to Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, commander of U.S. Northern Command, Davis said.

"We would provide those capabilities very quickly" for aviation response, water rescue, mass casualty care and shelter assistance if requested, he said. "One of our most solemn duties is to assist the American people in their time of need."

Already, about 35,000 people from Butte County; 65,000 from Yuba County; 76,000 from Yuba City; and 12,000 from Marysville City have evacuated, according to California officials.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.