In Fort McPherson, chief fears time flooded road repairs may take

Last modified: May 17, 2023 at 2:37pm

A helicopter is using Fort McPherson’s ball diamond to offer the only means in or out of the community as floodwater surrounds the hamlet.

Chief Liz Wright of the Teetl’it Gwich’in Band told Cabin Radio the community’s radio transmitter, which offers both CBC and famed local station CBQM, appears to have been disrupted by the flooding.

“We can’t listen to the radio and we can’t go on our local radio station to give out information,” Wright said on Wednesday afternoon. Up till now, CBQM had been providing rolling updates to residents as the Peel River’s water poured into some areas.


Social media, particularly the hamlet’s Facebook page, is now the place to go for municipal updates.

The hamlet has been in a state of emergency since Tuesday afternoon. Some low-lying homes on the community’s edge and the ferry camp south of Fort McPherson have experienced flooding.

Wright said residents are being given honeybuckets to help reduce water usage, with the main concern being floodwater cutting off road access to Fort McPherson’s trucked water source.

She worries that significant erosion to the Dempster Highway on either side of Fort McPherson – in the direction of its airport to the south, and its water source of Deep Water Lake to the north – may take time to be repaired.

Only once the NWT’s Department of Infrastructure has arrived and assessed the damage, she said, will the community next be able to access fresh, safe drinking water.


Residents have been instructed to conserve water where they can, and several government buildings have been closed to help save water.

“We don’t really know how long we’re going to be in this situation and the more they conserve, it will be better on everyone,” Wright said.

Forecast could bring more water

Fort McPherson residents are told to expect rain on Thursday and an increase in temperature that could bring more water toward the community unless Peel River ice jams break.

In videos posted to the hamlet’s Facebook page early on Wednesday, water could be seen streaming across the road to the airport. The road to the hamlet’s water supply and solid waste site appeared to be wearing away in places as water from the Peel rushed over it.


Fort McPherson was not on the NWT government’s list of nine communities considered to be at risk of flooding this year, despite data showing higher-than-average snowpack and water levels on the Peel. Much of the community is on somewhat elevated ground, but not all homes in the area have the benefit of that elevation.

Almost all data that could help understand how the situation on the Peel is evolving is no longer available because ice has damaged or destroyed local river gauges.

In a Tuesday afternoon update – distributed on Wednesday morning after a GNWT digital systems failure for much of the past day – hydrologists said conditions could yet worsen.

“Subsequent water level rises on the Peel River will be dependent on how Peel and Mackenzie River ice packs into the Delta and where backwater is routed,” that update stated.

Temperatures were expected to rise from Wednesday onward and rain is forecast for Thursday. “This will bring additional snowmelt water from higher elevations down to the river and could continue to raise water levels if the ice jams prevent drainage into the Delta,” the update added.

In Tsiigehtchic, water levels had risen by four feet since Tuesday, community foreman Mickey Andre said at lunchtime on Wednesday. 

However, he said, water levels had since stabilized and are being closely monitored.

Talar Stockton contributed reporting.