Liard River breaks as Fort Simpson waits on Mackenzie

Last modified: May 6, 2020 at 4:16pm


As Hay River’s evacuation order was lifted, the Village of Fort Simpson gave the all-clear for the Liard River – which, after rising to 13 metres, finally let loose.

Mayor Sean Whelly, who is also the regional emergency management contact, said Fort Simpson came close to a small evacuation for homes on Antoine Drive before the ice finally broke.


“There are a few homes on the north end of the island, in the low-lying area, that we were concerned enough about,” Whelly said.

“We sent our public works foreman down there to let people know they could move to the Maroda Motel because the road was starting to get covered with water.

“Literally half an hour after that happened, it was like a plug was pulled on the bathtub and the ice started to move.”

Whelly said residents had reported lower levels on Wednesday compared to Tuesday.

“So we’re waiting for the Mackenzie [River] to break now,” he said.


Whelly said water levels this year weren’t particularly concerning in the grander scheme of years past.

“I’ve been here 35 years and for the first 15 years I’d say the breakups were rather spectacular, and there was a lot of reason to get concerned,” he said.

“It seemed like water levels were always high. You always got some minor flooding at a minimum. And then it just started fading back, fading back.”

Fort Simpson, like Hay River, experienced its largest flood in 1963. 


“The only time when Fort Simpson really flooded badly, in ’63, they say was because the Mackenzie and the Liard broke at the same time right in front of Fort Simpson,” said Whelly.

“This is just a return, I think, to the way it was maybe 10 years ago, when we used to get the river filling up its banks completely.”

Meanwhile, village administrators reopened Fort Simpson’s dump to users for three days a week. May 2 was the first Saturday on which residential users could dispose of waste – fees were waived for the entire month.

Commercial customers will dump on Tuesdays and Thursdays with no changes to tipping fees. All three days will see the dump open for its usual hours.