Flood-ravaged Fort Simpson getting 'back in order' again, says mayor

·3 min read
An aerial view of the flooding that hit Fort Simpson last week. (Christine Horesay - image credit)
An aerial view of the flooding that hit Fort Simpson last week. (Christine Horesay - image credit)

The mayor of Fort Simpson, N.W.T., says he expects his flood-ravaged town to return to a sense of normalcy by Friday.

Mayor Sean Whelly said the village council met in an emergency meeting on Monday and said they requested for the territorial government to formally initiate its disaster assistance policy. He said that was based on feedback from residents, which identified nine homes as being unlivable, and 17 homes as being "moderately impacted."

Whelly says those numbers are "going to increase for sure," since not everyone had submitted their information.

"That's a starting point," he said.

"We want the government to be ready to start sending in assessors to help people with the restoration process."

An estimated 700 residents were forced to evacuate the community over a week ago when the Liard River broke, with some fleeing to Fort Smith, Hay River and Norman Wells. On Friday, water levels rose again to more than 16 meters — the highest this season.

Displaced residents have been camped out at a tent city near the village.

Whelly says that's where the government's assistance program is right now. He says it's doubtful that insurance will cover residents' losses.

"The type of flood insurance you would need is so expensive … being on a floodplain, I don't think it's going to really apply in any situations," Whelly said.

Mayor Sean Whelly gives an update to CBC on Monday about the flooding in Fort Simpson.
Mayor Sean Whelly gives an update to CBC on Monday about the flooding in Fort Simpson.(Mario De Ciccio/CBC)

He added the government has committed to taking on the task of doing all the repairs to people's houses.

"I think that's an economical way of doing it," he said, adding that it might be quicker too.

"Rather than leaving it to the individuals who sometimes may not have the capacity to do that."

Those who can't return to their homes will be put into temporary accommodation, Whelly said, which includes houses, if there are houses available, while other residents "may be staying in hotels, kitchenette-type facilities, until something else can be figured out."

"In stages over the next few days, I think we want to see our evacuees coming back, we've got a plan for that. And you know we'll take it from there," he said.

Fort Simpson started flying some residents out of the community on May 8, after issuing an evacuation order because of rising flood waters.
Fort Simpson started flying some residents out of the community on May 8, after issuing an evacuation order because of rising flood waters.(Submitted by Lisa Kraus)

The plan, he explained, is to work with the territorial EMO and residents to get those whose homes are livable, back home.

"If their house is OK, let's get those people back first. If the house does have some issues, well, you know, if they're capable and want to come back right away, let's bring them back," Whelly said.

"Because we've got to get things back in order here."

He also said three things need to be in place: the water is on, the electricity is on and that the food supply is back to where it was.

"I can see over the next few days, those evacuees in all three communities — perhaps the last ones being the elders in Norman Wells — coming back," Whelly said.

"Because really, we're looking at everything being essentially normal by Friday. And we're halfway there already."