Communities in the NWT’s Dehcho region are experiencing severe flooding. If you’re wondering how you can help, we’ve collected some of the options.
Hundreds of residents in Fort Simpson and the entire community of Jean Marie River faced evacuation orders in the past few days amid water levels said to be the highest in decades.
Residents in Jean Marie River returned on Sunday to buildings that remained submerged in several feet of water. There were also fears of damage from spilt fuel after tanks were uprooted.
In response, NWT residents are establishing groups that can help.
Patrick Scott – who lived in Fort Simpson in 1989, one if its worst flooding years on record – has started an online fundraiser to support the communities affected.
He said he is contacting Chief Stanley Sanguez of Jean Marie River and Chief Gerald Antoine of Fort Simpson’s Líídlįį Kúę First Nation to find out how to ensure the money gets to them and is spent on the community’s needs.
“Both communities have been severely hit and it’s going to take a lot of resources to recover,” Scott told Cabin Radio.
“I lived in Fort Simpson in 1989 when a flood occurred and I had three feet of water in my house, so I know very much from my own experience what it feels like and what the realities of recovery are.”
Scott said the need for community support was crucial as affected residents faced the prospect of flood repairs mid-pandemic.
“When you leave your house in an emergency, you leave 99 percent of your stuff behind and so you come back and you’ve maybe lost most of it,” he said.
“We need to be a community and the community is bigger than Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson, it’s the NWT. And we’re hopefully infamous for that.”
Scott set his fundraiser’s goal at $50,000 but hopes it can eventually grow toward $200,000.
A separate GoFundMe for Jean Marie River, created by Jeffrey Fabian, had set an initial target of $6,000.
A third GoFundMe for the Dehcho community was created by Myra Sanguez with a goal of $5,000.
Facebook groups to join
Two Facebook groups have been established to guide residents who are looking to help and share lists of supplies needed.
Communities Coming Together compiles posts outlining items required and how people can get those items delivered.
Elisa Hazenberg, one of the group’s organizers, said in-demand items include blankets, pillows, food, care packages – including hygiene products – and bigger items like generators.
“I felt like being proactive is really just the thing to do because these are not fun times at all,” she said. “First it’s Covid and then it’s a flood.
“I’m encouraging communities to be positive and this is a great opportunity for everyone to come together.”
Another group named Dehcho Strong – Supporting Communities Impacted by Flooding has been performing a similar role. A third group, initially created by Indigenous artists supporting Inuit hunters, has been repurposed to help those affected by flooding.
Businesses lend a helping hand
Air Tindi, meanwhile, is offering lower cargo fees to get supplies to Fort Simpson.
“We’re introducing an emergency flood cargo rate of 0.95 cents per pound plus tax,” a Facebook post by the airline states.
“To further offer support we will be waiving pick-up fees through our grocery pick-up program with PC Express at Your Independent Grocer.”
The president of Air Tindi, Chris Reynolds, said the special rate will remain until the community is back on its feet.
“We really don’t know how long it’s going to last for, we’re just trying to do everything we can to help them out,” he said.
The Monkey Tree Pub announced on Facebook it will be holding a 50/50 draw to raise funds for affected families in Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson.
Jennifer Vornbrock, co-owner of the restaurant, told Yellowknifer on Monday, she had reached out to the City of Yellowknife to obtain a lottery license and anticipated selling tickets in one week.
Vornbrock told Yellowknifer she was also in the process of setting up an account with the Bottle Shop-Recycling Depot under “Flood Relief” for people to donate refunds from bottle returns. She said the NWT Brewing Pub and the Raven Pub were also helping.
Fort Smith and Fort Providence help evacuees
Nearby communities are already helping evacuees.
Fort Providence’s mayor, Danny Beaulieu, said 15 to 20 residents who had to leave Jean Marie River are staying at the hamlet’s Snowshoe Inn.
Residents who decided to evacuate Fort Simpson on Saturday and Sunday night were sent to Fort Smith.
Mayor Lynn Napier said on Monday about 45 people had arrived so far. Volunteers were preparing for more.
Napier said people would normally evacuate to Yellowknife but, because of the evolving Covid-19 cluster in the city, evacuees had been diverted to Fort Smith.
Fort Simpson residents in Fort Smith are staying with friends and family, being housed at the local arena, or are using a local hotel.
“We’re glad to welcome any residents who are evacuating from Fort Simpson,” she said.
“Our community is coming together to bring any supplies or donations and to cook meals for the evacuees while they’re here, and we’re very thankful for that.”