Hay River’s breakup starting earlier with warm weather, GNWT says

A file photo of the Hay River during break-up on May 1, 2017. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
A file photo of the Hay River during breakup on May 1, 2017. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

Warm spring weather is speeding up this year’s breakup of the Hay River, the territorial government says in its latest update.

A Monday bulletin issued by the Department of Environment and Climate Change states that “initiation of spring breakup and water level rise in the Hay River is earlier than normal due to warm spring temperatures.”

The town of Hay River is expected to record daily highs of 10C or warmer for most of the next week.

ECC’s water monitoring bulletin states that snow in the southern section of the Hay River basin is starting to melt and water levels are starting to rise at downstream gauges, “but the rate of increase is still small and normal.”



Even so, that increase is “occurring earlier than normal and much earlier than last year,” the bulletin adds.

Rain expected in the next day or two may also speed up the melting of snow and river ice, with some open patches of water beginning to appear.

At a council meeting on Monday evening, director of protective services Travis Wright said water levels in and around Hay River are “starting to rise slowly but relatively low, still.”

Late last week, the GNWT said the signs so far point toward a quieter breakup season after devastating floods hit Fort Simpson in 2021 and Hay River a year later.



This year brings less moisture saturating the ground due to last year’s warm, dry summer, while water levels and snowpack – the amount of snow accumulating on the ground over the winter – are back to average amounts across much of the NWT.

However, the unpredictable nature of ice-jam flooding means communities remain on alert despite this spring’s encouraging start.

Elsewhere, Monday’s water monitoring bulletin reported that water levels on the Liard River and on the Mackenzie River at Fort Simpson are beginning to rise under the ice, but that rate of increase is “still very small.”

Breakup is also under way in the Peace and Athabasca basins, which drain into the Slave River, with nothing unusual so far reported.