The Town of Hay River has told residents of Vale Island and the West Channel to evacuate due to the risk of imminent flooding.
Town officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for the low-lying areas at 9pm on Monday, having warned earlier in the day that the Hay River was expected to rise rapidly that evening.
Affected residents must register at the Hay River community centre or by calling 833-699-0188.
Residents who require assistance should contact 833-699-0188. Full evacuation details for residents are available on the Town of Hay River’s website.
Hay River already has an RV camp set up outside its community centre with places for 30 RVs. Residents had been encouraged to move their RVs to the centre ahead of time. Some 40 to 50 residents are expected to use RVs to ride out the evacuation.
At least 100 people are being directed to hotels in the community, while another 100 were set to be accommodated in Yellowknife as per the NWT’s overarching emergency plan.
People with disabilities had already been evacuated from Vale Island and the West Channel as precautionary measures.
Chief April Martel of the K’atl’odeeche First Nation said all residents in the community’s Old Village had been safely evacuated and that area had been barricaded.
“Pray this ice and water flows out to the lake so everyone is safe in Hay River,” Chief Martel wrote online.
Emergency alert system used
Many residents received emergency alerts on their phones as the evacuation order was declared, marking one of the first times the NWT has used the relatively new system in earnest.
“All residents are asked to please stay away from the flood area until further notice,” the territorial government warned on a page dedicated to public safety notices.
Earlier in the evening, the Town of Hay River’s protective services team had said breakup was “moving along very quickly”.
In an email to residents, Town staff said: “We expect to see a lot of ice movement on both channels and high water.
“The water levels in Hay River are going to rise rapidly tonight.”
An emergency alert sent to the phones of Hay River residents warned of the evacuation order.
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.
Hay River has spent weeks designing an evacuation plan that can work around Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. The NWT’s ban on indoor gatherings means affected residents can’t evacuate to relatives’ houses.