The Hay River has yet to break up, leaving town administrators concerned they may have to deal with flooding and an evacuation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ross Potter, the Town of Hay River’s director of protective services, told town council on Monday evening: “Everything is happening late, which is a huge concern to me. When things happen late, normally that’s when things don’t go right.”
Up to 190 households, many on Vale Island, may need to be evacuated if the river floods.
Potter said ice readings are showing the ice at an average thickness.
“It’s definitely less than what it was when it flooded in 2008 and 2009, so I take that as a positive, but again I still have concerns because of the lateness of breakup coming in,” he said.
In 2009, residents of the Vale Island and West Channel areas were evacuated after an ice jam broke at a gorge on the river.
Potter said water at the NWT-Alberta border is rising slowly, but that doesn’t mean a flood can’t still happen.
The Town is taking additional measures to ensure water doesn’t get backed up and flood parts of the town, including opening culverts along the West Channel Road and removing a beaver dam at the end of the oxbow in the river early this week.
“I would normally say at this time I’m pessimistically optimistic, but I’m not saying that this year,” said Potter. “I think we need to stay on top of things and stay diligent on the breakup watch.”
More than 50 households still need to be surveyed
Glenn Smith, the Town’s assistant senior administrative officer, told council 135 of the 190 households that could be evacuated had provided full information to the Town as of Monday.
That includes determining how many people are in each house, asking if they require help with transport or accommodation if they have to leave their home, and handing out a package explaining how to prepare for an evacuation.
Vale Island residents who have not connected with the Town about evacuation plans are asked to call 867-864-6522.
“Residents in the past would stay with family, friends, or in new town areas, recreation centres, or registration centres that we had open,” Smith said, “but we need to keep people out of those environments as per the order of the chief public health officer.
“We are looking at maximum use of our local hotels first.”
Smith said Hay River hotels can hold about 150 people. The Town is also working on setting up an RV camp for people with access to RVs.
“If there’s overflow, the remaining people would evacuate to Yellowknife to use hotels there,” he explained.
If the Hay River floods and evacuations are necessary, the Town will notify residents through the Town of Hay River Facebook page, an emergency measures email if residents have signed up, CKHR 107.3 radio, local emergency responders sent to Vale Island, or by inviting residents to call 1-833-699-0188 for updates.