Sandbagging continues in Teslin to protect community from flooding

·4 min read
Teslin residents fill sandbags on Tuesday. The deputy chief of the Teslin Tlingit Council said about 65 to 70 people volunteered to help fill and distribute more about 18,000 sandbags on Monday and Tuesday in areas at risk of being flooded in the community. (Mike Rudyk/CBC - image credit)
Teslin residents fill sandbags on Tuesday. The deputy chief of the Teslin Tlingit Council said about 65 to 70 people volunteered to help fill and distribute more about 18,000 sandbags on Monday and Tuesday in areas at risk of being flooded in the community. (Mike Rudyk/CBC - image credit)

Work to protect properties and critical infrastructure in Teslin, Yukon, continues Wednesday as the community remains under a flood warning.

"My plan is … to help fill more sandbags and just try to get them out on pallets as fast as they can get them up, and get them on trucks to various locations," said Alex Oakley, deputy Naa Shàade Háni (deputy chief) of the Teslin Tlingit Council.

He said about 65 to 70 people in the community of about 240 people filled and distributed about 10,000 sandbags on Monday and another 8,000 Tuesday.

"There are sandbags required in some priority areas," he said, adding it was nice to see the community come together.

Oakley said he's never seen the water in the lake so high and said he's heard the same thing from people who have lived in the community longer than he has.

Some properties along the lakeshore are at risk of being flooded.

Mike Rudyk/CBC
Mike Rudyk/CBC

Oakley said the community is also using sandbags to protect critical infrastructure, including two sewer lines.

The flood warning was issued Monday by the Yukon government as the water level from the nearby Teslin Lake had risen by more than 20 centimetres in the previous 24 hours and was expected to continue to rise by at least that amount each day for the next five days.

The warning came one day after the Village of Teslin and the Teslin Tlingit Council asked residents to be ready to leave at a moment's notice because of the flooding.

'Little to no rain would be really, really good'

The community caught a bit of a break Tuesday when it stopped raining, said Oakley.

According to the government, the weather forecast calls for more clearing Wednesday with a high of 17 C, followed by "cloudy but warmer weather into the weekend, with highs near 20 C."

"Little to no rain would be really, really good for next week. It would give us a good chance in keeping up with sandbagging," he said.

Gord Curran, the mayor of Teslin, said he was happy with the measures taken and all the work that's been done but concedes he's still "a little bit concerned."

"It's just the water. Where is it going to end up?" he asked, adding he hopes the evacuation notice doesn't turn into an evacuation order.

Mike Rudyk/CBC
Mike Rudyk/CBC

'We're going to save this house'

Jenna McClements said she and her husband and son are working to protect their home, which is surrounded by water.

"We flooded last year and this year it's worse," she said.

The family, which also has four dogs and five cats, has been using a canoe to haul in sandbags and pile them up around their house.

"We're soon probably going to have to cut the power off and turn all the breakers off. And that way ... no electricity gets damaged, no fires or anything like that," she said.

Mike Rudyk/CBC
Mike Rudyk/CBC

She added the water has started seeping into her garage.

"We got everything out off the floor and high up in there. So we're hoping that we don't lose very much stuff," she said.

The next thing the family will do is pack up their belongings in the house and bring them to an area where the land is dry.

She said she won't leave the property if they're ordered to evacuate.

"We're not going," she said. "We're going to save this house."

"I'm trying to keep up and be happy and accept everything that's coming my way. It's a lot of work," she added with a laugh.

Mike Rudyk/CBC
Mike Rudyk/CBC

Laurie Joe, who also lives in the community, said the situation in the community of about 240 is similar to what it was last year but the water is running higher and faster.

She said she's noticed trees falling into the river, adding the trees aren't dead. Rather, they have roots.

"We've never really seen that before, so that's kind of scary," she said.

She and her partner were asked to tell people living on the lakeshore that an evacuation order telling them to leave may come if the water keeps rising.

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