Rumors, Valentines spread before Oroville evacuation order lifted

OROVILLE, Calif. - The mandatory evacuation order for Oroville, Calif. and the surrounding areas ended, Tuesday afternoon.

Officials were confident they had drained enough water from the Oroville Lake that the spillways would remain structurally sound as more storms approach.

The day leading up to that point had been filled with rumors of what was open, what wasn't and how much longer their town would be locked down.

Most residents who stayed behind despite the order lived above the Oroville dam and were confident their homes were safe.

Laura Smith lives above the dam, but out of cell phone coverage. She spent the morning searching for a gas station that was open.

"Checking in with family out of state and work and people that live lower down, it was eating up the little bit of gas I had left," she said. "So it’s a relief to find out a gas station was open today."

A few blocks away a crowd gathered outside the Raley's grocery store because rumors had been circulating via social media and word-of-mouth that it would be opening, Tuesday.

"We've been getting pretty creative with Top Ramen," said Debbie Smith who also lives above the dam.

A store clerk and a police officer posted up outside the front door quashed those rumors.

Only employees were being let in to collect perishable items.

"Just a lot of misinformation going around about who’s open, who’s not open," Debbie Smith said. "Can you get gas? Can you not get gas? If you leave (the evacuation area) can you get back in or not?"

The evacuation of Oroville and the surrounding area falls on the busiest day of the year for the longtime owners Oroville Flower Shop.

Prior to Sunday's evacuation order, the small shop had already taken between 150 and 200 orders for Valentines Day.

Owner Julie Jackson, her family and the skeleton staff that hadn't evacuated worked feverishly Tuesday morning to get Valentines orders made and delivered.

"Valentines day is huge," Jackson said. "It's the single biggest day for flower shops of the year."

Family members were using their own cars to try and make deliveries. Often times they were to homes of people who had evacuated.

The work came to a screeching halt when one got a call that another evacuation order had been issued and they had to leave.

That was likely another rumor. About an hour later emergency officials said the evacuation order was being downgraded to a warning. People were free to return to their homes, but had to be ready to leave again if the order came.

Storms are in the forecast again for Thursday.

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