Heatwave melting NWT’s ice roads, ruining events

Last modified: March 19, 2019 at 12:47pm

Extraordinarily warm temperatures across much of the Northwest Territories appear to be rapidly hastening the disintegration of key ice roads, weeks ahead of schedule.

The Polar Pond Hockey tournament, in Hay River, is also a victim of the warm weather. Organizers announced its cancellation on Tuesday.

At midday, the territorial government said the Mackenzie Valley winter road “is rapidly deteriorating and could close with little or no notice.”


The territory had already warned drivers the road was expected to close on Thursday, which would have been almost two weeks earlier than the 15-year average closing date.

Now, the road’s closure appears imminent and only night-time travel is permitted.

More information: Check NWT highway and winter road status

“Staff will assist vehicles tonight from 11pm-11am up Blackwater, Saline and Pipeline hills,” read a tweet from the Department of Infrastructure.

“Heavy truck traffic is not permitted to travel north of Wrigley.”


The Tłı̨chǫ winter road is also only open for night travel, from 10pm until 10am, avoiding warmer daytime temperatures.

Most winter roads and ice crossings in the southern NWT ordinarily close in early to mid-April, a territorial government webpage states.

Cabin Radio understands community leaders in the south of the NWT have been instructed to rush completion of important deliveries across ice roads and river crossings.

‘It is painful’

Polar Pond Hockey – one of the territory’s bigger sports events, welcoming teams from across the NWT and beyond – called off this year’s tournament, which had been set to begin on Friday.


“Sad day today,” read a tweet posted by organizers. “Mother Nature has blessed and cursed us with warm weather.

“This year’s Polar Pond Hockey event has been cancelled due to the record temperatures. It is painful to type that.”

The announcement came just three days after Curtis Rowe, helping with preparations for the event, said the ice for the tournament was shaping up to be “the best we’ve seen in years.”

In Yellowknife, Snowking’s Winter Festival kept its Snowcastle closed at noon – the first time in the festival’s 24-year history, organizers said, that warm weather had necessitated such action.

The castle will open in the evenings and on weekends, but will not operate from 12pm till 5pm on weekdays until further notice.

Environment Canada’s forecast for Yellowknife suggests the daily high will not dip below freezing until Saturday.

In Hay River, Tuesday’s forecast high of 14C was more than 20 degrees warmer than the average high for mid-March in the region. The daily high in Hay River is expected to remain at least 10 degrees above normal for the remainder of the week.

Fort Simpson recorded its all-time record March high on Monday, reaching 16.3C in the late afternoon – warmer than the community’s ordinary average high in May.