Jerry Brown

Evacuees might not go home until dam spillway is repaired

Helicopters dropped giant rock-filled sandbags into place Monday to shore up a California reservoir that had threatened to breach its banks and unleash a 30-foot wall of water, but officials said an evacuation order covering nearly 200,000 people would stay in place until they are sure it's safe to return home.

Officials defended their decision to issue the hasty order to abandon homes downstream from the nation's tallest dam, about 150 miles northeast of San Francisco. They said it was necessary for public safety after engineers spotted a hole in an emergency spillway, which they feared could have failed within an hour.

The water level of the massive reservoir known as Lake...