Saturday, February 18, 2017


One of the jingles I remember from my children's Sesame Street years is about artistic perspective: "That's about the size. Where you put your eyes. That's about the size of it." The lesson on perspective, in much more than the artistic sense, is one I must relearn frequently.

Take, for instance, last Sunday evening. We were on our way to the nearby town of Oroville, headed to a son's birthday dinner, when we received a message. Our county sheriff had ordered the evacuation of Oroville due to the "expected failure" of a spillway on the nation's tallest dam. Almost immediately, the traffic going the opposite direction went from sparse to heavy to bumper-to-bumper as people fled the city where we were headed on their way to the city we had just left. Uhhh...?

Phone calls and text messaging moved the dinner from one son's home below the dam to the home of another son above the lake. Then the traffic slowed in our direction as we joined others heading into the foothills.

But back to perspective.

As a reporter for the local newspaper, my hubby had covered the Department of Water Resources (DWR). He knew the dam inside and out, quite literally, and understood what the risks were and weren't. Like most other drivers, we stayed calm, maintaining normal traffic patterns and even letting others into the lane in front of us.

Not so with the folks who panicked. As we drove east, a car whizzed up the fog line on our right, going west at about twice the speed limit, backing up down the shoulder. Another car flew by on our left, possibly going as fast as eighty m.p.h. on a city street, dodging cars from both directions in the center turn lane. Those were only two of the people who behaved foolishly, even dangerously.

An old joke says you know it will be a bad day when you turn on the news to see evacuation routes out of your city. It isn't a joke when it happens. Keeping perspective in mind, we took a back-door route to go home that evening only to find the national news showing images we had just seen along the way. I promise we weren't laughing, but we weren't panicked either.

Most of a week has passed. So far the spillway has held, the lake level is down, the evacuation order has been lifted, and things are back to what passes for normal. The only big difference for us has been a "sleep-over" with the three cute grandbabies in our downstream son's family. Although about 188,000 people are still under an evacuation warning, we're no longer in the national headlines and it looks like the greatest risks may be behind us.

So far the only people who have been injured were those who lost perspective, the folks who panicked and caused mash-ups along the evacuation routes. The lack of perspective on the part of the DWR is a matter for the politicians to unravel.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at or find her @SusanAylworth, at, or on Pinterest.


  1. Susan, quite an interesting blog. I understand evacuation and how some people react to it. I'm glad your son and family are out of danger. Fingers crossed for them and for all near the dam.

  2. That is quite a story, Susan. I watched the news reports of the Oroville dam thinking how hard it must be for the people affected, but had no idea that I knew (sort of) someone close. I'm glad your son and his family are safe and hope they find a way to repair the dam so that this doesn't happen again. Thanks for sharing your story. It does indeed give a sense of perspective.

  3. As a long time disaster volunteer with the Red Cross, I've often noticed that crisis always seems to being out the best in people, or the worst.

  4. Hi Susan--
    Thank goodness your son's family and other residents of Oroville are okay. What a scary time for all. I'm hoping that dam gets the long-overdue work it desperately needs.