Hay River expects highway to Vale Island to be underwater soon, remaining residents advised to leave

·3 min read
Hay River near the Town of Hay River hydrometric gauge photo on Saturday at 11 a.m.  (Photo submitted by Water Survey of Canada and Government of the N.W.T. - image credit)
Hay River near the Town of Hay River hydrometric gauge photo on Saturday at 11 a.m. (Photo submitted by Water Survey of Canada and Government of the N.W.T. - image credit)

The town of Hay River, N.W.T. is expecting the highway that connects with Vale Island to be underwater soon and is telling any residents in that area to leave.

Kátł'odeeche First Nation members living in the Old Village, Lower Village and Wolf Drive Area are also being told to head for higher ground as flood waters approach.

Chief April Martel said on Sunday there is water and ice everywhere in the community.

"The complex is supposed to be our safe ground. There's water all the way up to the complex," she said.

Anyone leaving is asked to register at the Dene Wellness Centre.

All the Elders have been evacuated, but Martel said she is advising all members of Kátł'odeeche First Nation to pack a bag with all the essentials, as the entire community may need to leave.

There is only one road out of the reserve and Martel said the community will need to leave before the water can cut it off.

"As soon as I see water in certain areas around the community, everyone has to leave," she said.

Members will be alerted by a siren it is time to leave.

'We haven't seen the water come this far'

Martel said this is the highest she's ever seen the water rise and has been speaking with Elders about previous floods that have hit the community.

"They said the 1960 flood was really bad, but that was way back in Old Village Road. So this is a little different. We haven't seen the water come this far," she said.

Glenn Smith, Hay River's SAO, said he's never seen the water so high on the riverbank in the community's downtown.

"Things have been pretty bad here," he said.

On Saturday an evacuation order was issued for Vale Island and the West Channel.

"Water and ice levels are currently extremely high along the banks of the Hay River throughout town," the town wrote in an email on Sunday.

Smith said some people were unable to leave the island on Saturday and were forced to hunker down until waters subsided a little around 10:30 p.m.

"Some people did pass through, head south off the island making a good decision to get off," he said.

The N.W.T.'s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) said around 220 people have evacuated but that the town has more accurate numbers as it is keeping track.

Water breaching the banks

At 5 p.m. on Saturday, the town said in an email, water and ice had breached the East Channel banks near the Museum. Flooding had hit sections 100 Street, 101 Street and 102 Street.

Water was also flowing into ditches of 103 Street and ice had pushed onto sections of the Highway south of Porritt Landing Marina. The highway was temporarily closed so crews could remove the ice, but at around 10:30 p.m. the town said the highway had reopened to southbound traffic, but remains closed at the bridge.

Localized flooding has been reported around the West Channel and West Point First Nations area, as well as the northeast areas of the East Channel and at Paradise Gardens, the town said in an emailed notice on Saturday.

On Sunday, the town said ice is broken and jammed through both the west and east channels. It's also jammed near the Hay River Golf Course — additionally some broken ice is passing through Paradise Gardens and the campground.

"Ice continues to move downstream along the Hay River into town," the town wrote in an email.

According to the Environment Canada website, light rain is expected during the day. ENR said in an email on Sunday there was around 30 mm of rain in Hay River yesterday and models predict an additional 10 to 40 mm of precipitation in the Hay River basin through to Monday morning.

ENR said it's rare for a precipitation event of this magnitude to coincide with break up.

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