Waves on the shore of Ulukhaktok shortly after 1am on Saturday, October 21. Still image from video submitted by April Olifie
Ulukhaktok is recovering from a weekend storm that sent waves across the shoreline onto the road and threatened to pull boats out to sea.
“We saw one wave that crossed the whole bay, Queen’s Bay, right from the east side of the bay to the west side of the bay. It was completely straight across,” said Ulukhaktok resident Roy Inuktalik. “I just thought to myself, water’s so incredible with all these high winds – so powerful.”
Between midnight and 3am on Saturday, dozens of residents helped to pull some 30 boats to safety past the road, protecting them from the waves and winds. Even then, a few boats were washed out and residents worked to pull them farther from the shore.
“I was out the whole time with drenched clothes, just keeping an eye on water levels and the boats,” Inuktalik said.
“I knew what that water could do, and I was kind-of pushing my limits to try and save that boat,” he said of one attempt.
The community was able to save all nearby boats, but a few located farther outside the hamlet are reported to have been destroyed. With people working in different locations to save boats from the waves, Inuktalik says the experience was hectic and dangerous.
Water is said to have crossed the road near houses in three places. In one area, the water came within eight feet of a home. Nearby cabins were also hit by the waves – one was lost to the sea and another two were pushed into ponds by the waves, according to Inuktalik. More cabins were badly damaged by the waves but remain standing.
Mayor Joshua Oliktoak said residents who lost a boat or cabin to the storm are encouraged to seek financial support from the NWT government. He said more information about restoration of the road and shoreline would follow.
Residents who lost their boat or cabin in the storm are encouraged to seek financial support from the GNWT directly. Regarding public roads and shoreline restoration, mayor Joshua Oliktoak says they will have more information in the coming days.
“They know the damage that’s been done to the shoreline where everybody keeps their boats,” said Oliktoak. “It did so much damage to part of the road.”
One resident told Oliktoak what she saw as she pulled up her grandfather’s boat to save it from the waves.
“There’s a two-story house across the bay, there. And it’s up about 25 – 30 yards from the shoreline. That two-story house was gone from a wave,” said Oliktoak. “They couldn’t see that house from across the bay.”
Oliktoak said conditions in the bay were among the worst the community has seen.
Despite the dangers posed by going onto the shore in storm weather, Inuktalik says he went for his community.
“A few years back, I devoted myself to being a committed community protector, and always going to protect the community from any harm, any danger,” said Inuktalik.
Three days later, Inuktalik says he’s still sore, but otherwise no community members were injured by the storm. Inuktalik says he noticed a flock of seagulls on Tuesday morning, eating a seal carcass washed up onto the shore – which he said isn’t a common occurrence.
The shoreline along the coast is eroded, leaving the water brown and murky. Down the coast near the ocean, most of a local quad trail is gone, “eaten up and washed out and eroded from the waves,” said Inuktalik.
Along the coast, Inuktalik says he sees a lot of debris. Still, Inuktalik says he is thankful that his community pulled together in an emergency.
“I’d just like to thank our community members for all coming together, as always, in times of need like this,” Inuktalik said. “We are so awesome. Ulu strong, Ulu proud.”
“I just wanted to thank our whole community members that were out there helping each other,” said Oliktoak.
“Our community’s always been awesome that way.
“Our community pulls together and I’m so proud of our young people, because a lot of the young people were out there doing the work to help pull out boats.”