Evacuees from California dam can return home, sheriff says
A damaged spillway with eroded hillside is seen in an aerial photo taken over the Oroville Dam in Oroville, California, U.S. February 11, 2017. (California Department of Water Resources/William Croyle/Handout via REUTERS)

Californians who were ordered to evacuate due to a threat from the tallest dam in the United States can now safely return to their homes and businesses may resume operations, a county sheriff said on Tuesday.

A previous evacuation order has been reduced to an evacuation warning, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told a news conference, after water management officials drained enough water from the Oroville Dam.

The warning means that people can return but should be prepared to evacuate again if necessary, Honea said.

Both the primary and backup drainage channels of the dam, known as spillways, were damaged after a buildup of water that resulted from an extraordinarily wet winter in Northern California that followed years of severe drought.

More rain was forecast for as early as Wednesday and through Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

Swift action by officials led by the state Department of Water Resources relieved pressure on the spillways, Honea said.

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Daniel Trotta and James Dalgleish)