Beaufort Delta
Environment

Rising sharply, Mackenzie River floods camps and cabins


Some Delta cabin owners faced the after-effects of flooding and others the prospect of evacuation as the NWT’s Mackenzie River rose quickly on Sunday evening.

Jimmy Kalinek said he has yet to get out to his cabin, at the north end of Kalinek Channel, to view the potential damage. He thinks that could include floodwater inside the home and mud accumulation.

Knowing the river would rise, Kalinek said he and his family prepared for the worst and left their camp on Saturday after two and a half months living there.

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The last Kalinek saw of his cabin, in aerial photos taken from a helicopter, was water close to entering his porch at around 6pm on Sunday. As the evening wore on, fellow cabin owners north of his camp told Kalinek the water was still rising.

An aerial photo taken around 6 p.m. Sunday shows the waters of the Mackenzie near Kalinek point flooding Jimmy Kalinek’s cabin

An aerial photo taken around 6pm on Sunday shows the waters of the Mackenzie near Kalinek point flooding Jimmy Kalinek’s cabin. Submitted photo

While some were able to leave on their own, one owner had to be picked up by helicopter – likely, Kalinek said, as ice in the area would have prevented them leaving by boat.

Another cabin owner posted to Facebook that their dock and Hudson’s brand aluminum boat were missing after the overnight flooding.

A gauge on the East Channel at Inuvik shows a steady rise in water levels from mid-May to Monday, June 1. Between Sunday and Monday, the water flow rose sharply from 1,040 cubic metres per second at 2 am Sunday to 1,240 cubic metres per second by 6 am Monday.

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The river rose nearly half a metre in the same time period.

Since around 6am on Monday, the river has been receding. The CBC first reported the impact of floodwater in the area.

Flooding on the East Channel

While the Mackenzie always rises with breakup, cabin owners in the area say flooding like this only happens around once a decade. One owner said the last major flood event, with higher water levels than Sunday, was in 2006.

Ivan Russell, the territorial government’s director of public safety, said he is aware of four cabins having flooded in the area. It isn’t something the territory’s Department of Municipal and Community Affairs tracks, he said – outside municipal boundaries, it is up to individual cabin owners to know the risks and have an evacuation plan if needed.

Elizabeth O’Connell tested out the water levels on Tank Farm Road near the East Channel. She said after flooding on Sunday, water levels are starting to recede

Elizabeth O’Connell tested out the water levels on Tank Farm Road near the East Channel. She said after flooding on Sunday, water levels are starting to recede. Photo: Elizabeth O’Connell

Tank Farm Road flooded on Sunday, leading Arctic Petroleum Services to close its site

Tank Farm Road flooded on Sunday, leading Arctic Petroleum Services to close its site. Photo: Elizabeth O’Connell

Despite high water levels, Russell said the ice broke up and flushed through quickly for most communities along the Delta.

Every year is different, he added, and a single weather or climate event can rapidly change breakup and flood conditions.

“There are a whole bunch of factors involved and it’s very difficult to predict,” he said.

Arctic Petroleum Services, located along Tank Farm Road on the East Channel, closed on Sunday as the road leading to its facility flooded.

Operations manager Elizabeth O’Donnell said the company was able to refuel its trucks and get them off-site before the flooding, allowing fuel deliveries to the airport, gas stations, and other customers to be maintained.

The water on the road receded on Monday, O’Donnell said. The plan is to reopen the site on Tuesday.

The water gauge at Inuvik on the East Channel shows a sharp rise in water levels and flow (measured in cubic metres per second)

The water gauge at Inuvik on the East Channel shows a sharp rise in water levels and flow (measured in cubic metres per second).

“Since I’ve been with the company, going on six years, this is the first time I’ve seen it rise,” she said.

Each year there is water rise along the channel once breakup begins, yet this year is higher than previous years, said Town of Inuvik senior administrator Grant Hood by email.

As the flooding is outside the town boundary, Hood said there is nothing the municipality can do.

Aerial photos show Inuvik’s boat launch flooded. The launch is closed and doesn’t go in until later this month, when water levels recede, Hood said.

“Our hearts go out to those who have been affected,” Inuvik Mayor Nataska Kulikowski stated via email Monday.

“We hope to see water levels recede quickly with as little damage as possible.”

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