Fort Good Hope remains on flood watch as water levels waver

·3 min read
This sign, on the point where Jackfish Creek meets the Mackenzie River, marks the trigger point for the community of Fort Good Hope, N.W.T. 'If water reaches this point, a STATE OF EMERGENCY will be activated and Evacuation Warnings will be issued,' the sign reads.  (Submitted by Roger Plouffe - image credit)
This sign, on the point where Jackfish Creek meets the Mackenzie River, marks the trigger point for the community of Fort Good Hope, N.W.T. 'If water reaches this point, a STATE OF EMERGENCY will be activated and Evacuation Warnings will be issued,' the sign reads. (Submitted by Roger Plouffe - image credit)

Water levels have been rising and falling on Tuesday, but no state of emergency has been issued in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., so far, after ice on the Mackenzie River began to move freely Monday evening without incident.

Residents in low-lying areas of town had been preparing for the kind of flooding seen this month in Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson.

Roger Plouffe, the director of emergency services in Fort Good Hope, said Tuesday that the community is still on flood watch and while no state of emergency has been called yet, it's still on the table. He says it wasn't called partially because the river was "behaving" as expected, and people in flood risk areas "basically evacuated" already.

Plouffe said Monday evening that most of the hamlet is on high ground, but there are about 14 homes at the lowest elevations. He says there's another dozen or so homes on the next level, which has never flooded in the past, "but we're ready for it."

"We don't need a state of emergency when [people] want to move," he said at the time.

He said some of those who left their homes relocated to the daycare centre, some to a work camp with about 11 rooms, and some to a bed and breakfast that had a couple of rooms open. Others are staying with family members.

"What's happening is that the ice is moving down [the river]," Plouffe said, adding the ice has been lifting and dropping for most of the day. He says water levels having been coming just below the community's posted sign which marks when an emergency alert would be called.

"Once in a while it creeps over then drops right back," Plouffe said.

Just up river from the community, the Mackenzie narrows from two kilometres wide to just over 100 metres, according to the Northwest Territories Tourism website, "as it rushes by the 40-metre limestone cliffs of the Ramparts."

Plouffe says that's where the "ice wall" is, which is partially acting like a dam, and where it typically builds up each year. If it breaks, he says there's a warning of about 15 minutes to half an hour before it reaches the community.

Plouffe says there are two people camped out watching the wall of ice. He added it could take as long as a week for it to break.

"The longer it takes … the better, because that means the water that will be dropping, as it keeps on moving the ice down[stream]," he said.

Preparations

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said in a news release that it has completed assessments in the community to prevent spills should there be flooding.

A release from the territory also says the Sahtu EMO in partnership with Fort Good Hope is arranging a flight survey of flood and ice jamming conditions in the region.

Plouffe says the community has also made preparations.

"We've done a lot of things. We're pumping out fuel tanks and we're still at the final stages for some people who want to move, and there are about three or four families who will hang on to the end," he said Monday.

"They already got a place to go to, so they can just get up and go."

He also said there are two power lines in the community and that the Power Corporation came in on Sunday to put in a breaker into the area "so that those that are high ground on the north side will still have power."

Meanwhile, Plouffe also says there was a recent update that water levels upstream in Tulita and Norman Wells are both down.

"They are clear of the problem," he said. "The risk of flooding has now passed."

He says he's keeping in touch with Aklavik as "whatever happens here will eventually affect" that community too.

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