A lineup of vehicles on Highway 1 on September 9, 2023. Photo: Helen Barrieau
A 30-km section of NWT Highway 1 south of Enterprise has reopened after it was closed on Saturday morning due to heavy smoke.
Posting on Facebook at 8am on Saturday, the territorial government said the highway was closed between Enterprise and kilometre marker 58. (The NWT border is kilometre zero.)
The GNWT said “heavy smoke from wildfires” was to blame.
“Please obey all road signs and follow the direction of emergency management officials,” the territory wrote.
By 9am, some drivers reported being led through the area by pilot vehicles.
Helen Barrieau, using an InReach satellite device to reach Cabin Radio, said she was being guided through the smoke after her vehicle had been held at a spot near Alexandra Falls for two hours. She reported poor visibility and “slow going” even with the pilot vehicle.
At 10:30am on Saturday, the territorial government said on Facebook that the highway had reopened, but that drivers should prepare for delays or sudden closures.
Just before 11:30am, Barrieau wrote in to say she had made it to Fort Providence and reported no lineups for gas.
Highway 1 is the only road connecting Alberta to the NWT. Hundreds of residents returning to Yellowknife, where an evacuation order was lifted on Wednesday, were expected to use the highway over Saturday and Sunday.
Earlier in the week, territorial officials had stressed they did not anticipate lengthy closures in the first few days of residents’ return.
However, weekend conditions are expected to be conducive toward “highly active” fire in the South Slave, meaning the likelihood of significant smoke also increases.
As of 9am there were no reported concerns elsewhere on the highway network. Highway 7 from Fort Liard to the BC border has reopened, but Highway 77 on the BC side is listed as open only for essential travel between 7am and 7pm daily.