Fort Simpson water drops slightly as hundreds remain displaced

Last modified: May 11, 2021 at 10:15am

Water levels in Fort Simpson have slightly decreased, the village’s mayor said on Tuesday morning. A mandatory evacuation order remains in effect and people are being kept away from the main island.

Mayor Sean Whelly told Cabin Radio he estimated the water had dropped slightly from a high of 15.9 metres to about 15.7 metres. That was, he said, a “very marginal difference.”

“It’s just a game of being patient and hoping we get some movement here on the main river, and just let some of this ice out,” Whelly said.


Flooding in Fort Simpson has so far been driven by the breakup of the Liard River. The Mackenzie River, into which the Liard flows outside the village, has still to break.

Whelly said he had reports that water levels had dropped slightly in Jean Marie River and “ice was moving there.” Later on Tuesday, Fort Simpson officials were due to carry out a flyover of the Mackenzie River to identify where it has broken.

Meanwhile, Whelly said updates to the village’s website and Facebook page had temporarily slowed because of the pressure on Fort Simpson’s senior administrative officer to perform so many tasks.

Whelly said more than 40 more people left the community on Monday night for Smith. With that flight, he said, “we’ve now got most of the Elders out of the community.”

As of Monday morning, about 700 people had been displaced by the flooding. Around 40 to 50 remain on the island, though a handful left on Monday. Others have gathered on nearby higher ground in a makeshift camp.


Whelly said remaining island occupants had no water or power. “It just gets progressively tougher, but I know there are still people living down there,” he said.

“I would be thinking it’s much safer to be off the island and that’s what we try to encourage people to do.”

The village is encouraging all other residents to conserve their water and power. With the village’s main power plant on the island, power to residents on higher ground is coming from generators.

“We don’t know how long this is going to go,” said the mayor.


“We only have so much water to work with, so conserve water and watch your power usage, because the generator that’s set up can’t take a really heavy load.”

Putting in the extra mile

Whelly praised village employees, emergency services volunteers, and healthcare workers who were going above and beyond to care for residents.

“Just seeing everyone in action, it’s been really good to see,” he said.

Some out-of-town construction workers whose project was located in a flood-affected area decided to stay in the village to help residents. The local Northern store emptied out its coolers and volunteers helped to distribute food.

“After about an hour of getting everything organized, they let everyone through in an orderly fashion and so everyone got what they needed,” Whelly said.

Acts of kindness have come from beyond the community, too.

Twenty bags of dog food alongside baby essentials, blankets, and sleeping bags arrived in Fort Simpson on Monday.

NWT residents have created online fundraisers and groups to organized shipments to affected Dehcho communities. On Tuesday, resident Pat Waugh asked anyone with warm socks to drop them at Air Tindi at 5pm so she can transport them to Fort Simpson on the evening flight.