South Slave

Vale Island residents told ‘prepare for potential evacuation’


The Town of Hay River on Wednesday evening warned residents of its Vale Island district to be ready to evacuate as fears of a flood escalate.

Residents of Vale Island “should now prepare their households for a potential evacuation,” said Glenn Smith, the Town’s assistant senior administrator, in an email.

Town officials believe the risk of the Hay River flooding is increasing.

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Earlier this week, Hay River’s director of protective services said he was “concerned” by the way breakup of the river ice was developing farther south.

Still, Smith said the warning issued to Vale Island residents – known as an evacuation notice – was precautionary in nature.

Residents will receive an evacuation alert if the likelihood of needing to leave grows, followed by an evacuation order if the Town decides an evacuation is mandatory.

An evacuation order would be made public by email, text message, CKHR community radio in Hay River, a public address system, and the Town’s website and Facebook page.

Vale Island is particularly vulnerable to flooding. After a bad flood in 1963, when Vale Island’s east channel was submerged, many Hay River residents relocated from the region to safer ground upstream.

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Hay River has spent weeks designing an evacuation plan that can work around Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. For example, the ban on indoor gatherings means affected residents can’t simply move to relatives’ houses.

Some 100 households will be accommodated in local hotels if an evacuation is needed, with places to stay being assigned based on mobility, family size, pets, and other factors.

An RV camp has been established next to the community centre with power hookups for 30 sites. Smith said 40 to 50 people in the evacuation zone have access to RVs and intend using them if need be.

The remaining 100 or so people, aside from a handful with cabins or work accommodation to go to, would be sent to Yellowknife should an evacuation be necessary.

Transport and accommodation plans for people heading to Yellowknife have been “solidified as much as we can,” Smith said on Monday.

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