Flood evacuee Andy Cardinal just drove all night to get to the Yellowknife Multiplex and says it's been an "emotional roller coaster" thinking of the residents of Hay River and Kátł'odeeche First Nation who were ordered to leave the flood zone last night.
He's one of 3,800 people who were ordered out of the community just before midnight as water from the Hay River, which carries water from Alberta into Great Slave Lake, began flooding the entire community.
At the multiplex, evacuees are registering themselves and Yellowknifers are ready to pitch in to help those that are displaced.
Cardinal, who lives on the Kátł'odeeche reserve five kilometres from the Kátł'odeeche bridge, said that everything happened quickly, with floodwaters suddently spilling over the road as he was leaving.
"The water was just coming up. People were just driving through as fast as they could, so they wouldn't stop," he said.
Cardinal said community members have been helping each other out, like elders who needed assistance using the cardlock gas pumps to get out of town.
Conditions deteriorated rapidly.
"The water came up so fast. Unbelievable, like a jump [of] four feet in seconds, like four feet," he said.
"Then we said, we're out of here. We jumped, cut off all the power, jumped in the truck, and we were gone."
When Cardinal reached the bridge, the alarm to leave the reserve was already blaring.
"The scary part about it was that it came up so fast on the ice bridge crossing that all got pushed up with ice."
People in the village were stuck, and so Cardinal's brother Amos brought in a loader to push the ice aside.
There were cars lined up when his brother arrived and the ice chunks were so large they could push a loader to the side.
"He started fighting with the ice to get it to move it back," Cardinal said. "He was having trouble moving the ice, but he just managed to get inside long enough for the vehicles to start going through. So it was really nerve-wracking."
Cardinal lost his phone in the escape.
"You're thinking of so much. You're thinking of a family, you're thinking of phoning people, see if they got out, see if they need help. It's a lot of looking after not only yourself, but family."
After a long night's drive, Cardinal said he's registered himself as an evacuee at the multiplex, where volunteers are making sure people are fed.
On Thursday morning, Javaroma's Fadil Memedi brought food for evacuees.
'How much we lost'
Out of all the years Carol Dixon has lived in Hay River, she said she's never seen the flood this bad. Not even the 1963 flood compares.
"It's the Elders and the people back home that I think about," she said, having reached the safety of Yellowknife.
"It's very hard to see all my hometown people have to rush out of town."
When the flood waters rose late Wednesday night, Dixon made the call to get off the reserve. Water was gushing up the highway and pushing trees off the river banks.
"It was so overwhelming to see something like that … it breaks my heart," said Dixon.
Most of the reserve was underwater, she said.
"We're thinking of what it will be like when we go home, and how much we lost."
Bringing the elderly to safety
Vale Island resident Jennifer Kraus has been up all night — her parents are elderly and she wanted to make sure they had a comfortable place to sleep.
The situation is emotional.
"I'm exhausted. I need sleep…. I'm trying very hard to remain strong. But it is what it is."
Kraus had been staying in the hotel until Wednesday. People started leaving and she wanted to be on the safe side.
Leaving the community was "one big, mad mess."
"People were in a panic," she said.
They couldn't find a place in Enterprise or Fort Providence. Their next stop was hours away in Yellowknife.
'Happy we're here now'
Deena Corrigal, who lives in Hay River's New Town area, left the community around 4 a.m. as her boyfriend saw the water was rising, and fast.
"We didn't want to ... just wait around to see what would happen."
Now both of them are in Yellowknife with her son Kenneth and their pet.
Her son has his blanket and his stuffed kitties.
He asks, "Mommy, did the water come [to] this road?"
She assures him the water isn't coming to Yellowknife.
They found a room at Quality Inn, which allows pets.
"It was really scary. I'm just happy we're here now. We're safe," Corrigal said.
"It was like a scene from a horror movie. I was terrified and trying to stay calm."
Many people slept in their vehicles last night but it wasn't exactly an option for her family of three.
"I'm nervous and worried about our house and if it's okay if our basement is flooded. But it's fine. All this stuff can be replaced."