PORTLAND, Ore. – Sixteen disaster responders from Oregon and Southwest Washington are headed to California to help the nearly 190,000 people who evacuated their homes near the Oroville Dam.
The dam was at risk of breaching Sunday night, prompting the evacuation order.
Responders from Portland, Dallas, Medford, Silverton, Bend, Wood Village, Salem and Newberg, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington, will staff shelters set up for evacuated residents and deliver food and other supplies, according to a news release from the American Red Cross.
Nearly 4,000 evacuees were in Red Cross and community shelters as of Monday morning, the Red Cross said. The organization is preparing to shelter and feed thousands more people in the upcoming days.
Mike Williams, a Red Cross volunteer from Salem, is driving one of three Emergency Response Vehicles to help with the Oroville Dam response.
"I saw the news coverage last night and started packing my travel bag," Williams said. "I knew I needed to help and when I received the call this morning asking if I could go, I was ready. The folks who have been evacuated need us."
The potential for disaster compelled Rachael Gernhart of Portland to want to help. She got the call from the Red Cross on Monday and will be serving with them through Americorps.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” said Gernhart. “I couldn't imagine being a family and hearing that you might lose everything and having to pack everything in your car and evacuate. I hope that one day if I ever experience a disaster that someone will help me.”
The Oroville Dam is the nation’s highest dam. The evacuation order came after damage was discovered Sunday night.
The dam currently remains intact, but the emergency spillway is eroding.
The governor of California has declared a state of emergency.
There is no estimation on when people will be able to return to their homes, but the Red Cross said it was preparing to help evacuees for as long as needed.