Residents of Hay River, N.W.T., were able to return to town as of 6 p.m. Sunday, but the mayor warns that some areas are still without power, water and sewer services, and road access.
"We know that people are frustrated and they've been sitting there waiting," said Kandis Jameson.
Now, she added, "At least they have access to their homes — whether they're livable or not, is yet to be seen."
Jameson also cautioned returning residents that if their homes are uninhabitable, there are limited-to-no accommodations open in town.
She urged residents from harder-hit areas to come up with a plan B if they want access to basic services, like water or power.
The town of nearly 3,800 people was evacuated Wednesday night because of flooding. Since then, residents have been eagerly awaiting news about when they can return home.
Jameson said residents who live between McRorie Road and the West Channel Bridge don't have water or sewer service right now, and it may be weeks before they get it back.
There is still no access to Vale Island.
Schools will be closed for at least two weeks as the town works to bring its sewer system back online, said Jameson.
Despite it all, Jameson said the town council was excited to have residents return.
"It's Hay River, we'll figure it out. We'll help each other," said Jameson. "I know we'll make it through this. I know we'll rebuild and I know that we'll be stronger for it."
Town releases checklist, re-opening plan for returning residents
Town officials released a checklist Sunday evening, strongly encouraging residents to read it before returning home.
The checklist warns that floodwater can "carry raw sewage and disease, cause mould, and turn food into sources of dangerous bacteria."
The re-opening plan says that while hazard assessments have been done for major infrastructure and utility systems, inspections haven't been done on private property. Property owners will have to arrange their own inspections.
In an update Sunday afternoon, the town said some sewer lines are seeing silt buildup, which is affecting piped waste service.
Water usage in areas where sewer services have been compromised "creates a risk of further backup issues and hinders the restoration of services," the town said.
It also said protective services are doing regular security patrols around the town.
The territorial department of Environment and Natural Resources said on Sunday that satellite imagery shows no remaining ice in the East and West Channels.
The re-opening plan offers a breakdown of the town according to the status of utility and infrastructure systems.
It says revisions are expected as conditions change, and that residents should refer to the town's website for the latest information.
"It is critical that returning residents understand the specific services which are available at their property when deciding as to when it is appropriate to return," reads the plan.
Multiple utility and infrastructure systems down
In the Riverview Drive, Beaver Crescent, Caribou Crescent and Gaetz Drive area, the road is inaccessible. The town estimates it will take three-to-five days to open the road. This area also doesn't have sewer service.
Paradise Gardens has "considerable" damage over more than a kilometre of road. A structural assessment is expected to be done within the coming days.
In the meantime, trucked water and sewer services aren't available to many sections of Paradise Gardens, and there is no power. The flooding has damaged many homes and properties, reads the re-opening document.
Old Town, including Lakeshore Drive, will be inaccessible for up to three days while road work is underway. Trucked water or sewer service isn't available there right now.
Propane and power distribution services to this area are expected to be restored within two to three days.
West Point First Nation and West Channel won't have road access for two to three days, while road work is happening. In the meantime, there will be no trucked water or sewer service.
Propane service is expected to come back within that same timeframe.
The power distribution network for West Point First Nation and West Channel is expected to be fixed within three to five days.
One utility or infrastructure system down
The town says one utility or infrastructure system is offline from McRorie Road to the West Channel Bridge. This doesn't apply to Riverview Drive, Beaver Crescent, Caribou Crescent and Gaetz Drive, and the downtown core.
The lift station serving McRorie Road to the West Channel Bridge is submerged in water and is offline, says the re-opening document. The town estimates it will take four to five days to access it.
All utility and infrastructure systems functional
The following areas have basic services, the town said:
McRorie Road South through Miron Drive
Corridor (excluding Paradise Gardens)
553 including Saskatoon Drive and Cranberry Crescent
West Channel Bridge to the airport
Downtown Core and Highway Commercial between Norhtwestel and Boardroom restaurant
The town says a "pathfinder" will be available to help property owners through the assessment process, and with making applications under the N.W.T. government's Disaster Assistance Policy.
It says properties that were flooded should get electrical and gas inspections before residents move back in.
Mayor Jameson estimated that 400 to 500 evacuees were being sheltered in Yellowknife, while others went to Fort Smith, Fort Providence and Enterprise, N.W.T.
"I cannot express my gratitude enough to my fellow mayors around the North," she said.
Daily spring breakup updates are available on Hay River's website.
The territorial government is asking everyone who left Hay River to register as an evacuee by calling 1-833-699-0188.