Hay River braces for impending river breakup season

The Hay River is pictured as it breaks up in May 2020
The Hay River is pictured as it breaks up in May 2020. Photo: Aaron Tambour/Aaron Tambour Photography

The Town of Hay River is ramping up its emergency planning and flood mitigation work for the upcoming river breakup season.

This year’s plans take into account the Covid-19 pandemic and unprecedented high water levels in the territory, according to a public notice from the town.

Planning for multiple scenarios with different severity levels is under way, including the potential evacuation of Vale Island for the second year in a row.

The town’s senior administrative officer, Glenn Smith, says this year’s breakup could be concerning.



“With the unprecedented high water levels, it’s a new risk,” Smith said.

“The bathtub is full and the tap is also on full stream. Will that drain keep up or will it get plugged along the way?”

Earlier this month, territorial officials warned flooding is likely this year because high water levels have persisted throughout the winter.

The exact impact, though, is hard to determine. Other factors include the amount of rain and snow in the coming weeks, the thickness of the ice, and when – and how quickly – that ice thaws.



Steps for residents to take

Last May, more than 300 Hay River residents living on Vale Island and around the West Channel were temporarily displaced as water levels rose.

The town has produced a list of things residents can do to prepare for breakup this year, plus people can sign up for Hay River’s emergency measures mailing list or call 1-833-699-0188 for the latest information by phone.

People in flood risk areas should move equipment and belongings out of harm’s way, ensure electrical and heating appliances are safe, and talk to their insurance company about flood coverage options, the town says.

There are specific guidelines for Vale Island residents.

The town says more information will follow in April, but residents should in the meantime consider where they would evacuate that would be Covid-compliant.