Édith Vachon-Raymond was in the middle of making poutine when she got a text from a friend: had she seen Hay River’s notice for old-town residents to evacuate?
Vachon-Raymond said she was “a little late cooking dinner, both because I’m French and because I was preparing for the possible evacuation.” She put down her potatoes, grabbed her packed bag, and joined the line of cars leaving Vale Island and the West Channel.
At Hay River’s designated evacuation point, the local community centre, she said she found “a big family gathering” of friends and neighbours – with six feet of separation.
While the line-up to register was long – those standing in line were told to expect up to an hour’s wait – Vachon-Raymond instead called in, registering herself and her pets in five minutes.
Then she was on her way to a junkyard, where some friends had an RV waiting for her. She credits her minus-26 sleeping bag with keeping her warm on Monday night – she had no electricity until this morning to charge her phone.
The Town of Hay River expected to evacuate around 200 people on Monday as the threat of a flood increased during river breakup season. The evacuation order remained in place on Tuesday.
For the past three days, Vachon-Raymond had been prepared for an evacuation. She lugged her evacuation bag from her door to the bathroom to her bedroom and back, to unpack things she still needed at home.
In her vehicle she had dry food, camping gear, and pet food for her two dogs and two cats. (The dogs are with her still. The cats have gone to a friend’s house where they can’t escape from the loose camper door and explore the scrapyard.)
Vachon-Raymond hasn’t heard from the Town of Hay River since registering. She says she’s preparing herself to live at the scrapyard for at least a week.
“It would be great if it was quicker than that … that would be even better. But if I have to stay here a week, I’m not going to be disappointed,” she said.
She has heard from her friends and family, though. “It’s really nice when people are asking you if you’re OK,” she added.
If a flood comes to pass, Vachon-Raymond is not too worried about her house in old town, which sits on a little hill. She is, however, a little concerned about her greenhouse – and a car in her yard with a dead battery, which she didn’t have time to fix before evacuating.
“It’s a possibility [that the yard will flood], but at this point, what can I do? There’s nothing I can do,” she said. “I think that the Town’s doing a really good job. I really think the Hay River community is amazing and I hope that everybody stays safe.”
Vachon-Raymond is already thinking about what she would do differently if she ever has to evacuate again.
“I forgot the water jug, so this morning I didn’t have coffee for a while because I gave my water to the dogs,” she said.