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I think this kind of thing has happened before - maybe in the 40's or something, but there was no warning back then - just wiped out a community or two...
"Authorities weren’t taking any chances that an already damaged spillway in the Lake Oroville Dam could give way. The dam – more than 200 feet taller than the 550-foot-tall Washington Monument – controls the water for the state’s second largest reservoir, north of the capitol of Sacramento."
^^ An excerpt from this article about the Oroville dam. Yikes!