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Dehcho

Fort Simpson solidifies evacuation plans ahead of breakup


Fort Simpson has issued revised evacuation plans ahead of potential flooding as the Mackenzie and Liard rivers break up.

The village’s council met on Tuesday to discuss its existing plan, given the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Yellowknife. Fort Simpson relies on Yellowknife as a potential destination for evacuees in the event of a flood.

In a news release posted to Facebook, the village indicated it has made two changes to its original plan.

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Fort Simpson residents can now camp at the village’s fire department training site if they’re evacuated.

“Water, wood, toilets, picnic tables, and some cooking facilities will be set up by the Emergency Measures Organization to assist those that wish to use these facilities,” the news release stated.

“A limited number of tents and blankets will be available for those who do not have any camping gear.”

People who “absolutely need” to leave the community – like elderly or long-term care residents – can register for flights to Yellowknife and accommodation.

The changes appeared designed to limit the likelihood of Fort Simpson residents being forced to travel to Yellowknife during the city’s ongoing Covid-19 outbreak. The NWT’s chief public health officer has sought to discourage travel to and from Yellowknife where possible.

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Fort Simpson’s mayor, Sean Whelly, could not be reached for comment.

Water levels reaching 15 metres would trigger an evacuation of the village.

The original plan states anyone without transportation out of the island can be flown to Yellowknife.

More: Fort Simpson’s flooding precautions

At a news conference on Monday, Premier Caroline Cochrane said the NWT government was working with communities on floodwatch to make emergency evacuation plans.  

“Based on what’s happening in Yellowknife right at this moment, we do have staff working with those community governments to make alternative arrangements for evacuation,” she said.

“Yellowknife will still be a major evacuation centre but, if things do not get addressed within the next couple of weeks, we’re looking at alternatives.”

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