Water levels in flood-stricken Fort Simpson dropped significantly overnight into Sunday morning, raising hope that the worst of the disaster may now be over.
Village officials said the water level had dropped below 10 metres by 9am on Sunday, having peaked beyond 16 metres earlier in the week. Landmarks like the town’s arbour, previously mostly submerged, were again visible.
Though water levels have fluctuated all week, this is the first time the flooding has subsided to any meaningful degree. Access to Fort Simpson’s island reopened for residents at 10am.
Even so, the village warned residents to expect a wait of “several days” before power and water services are fully restored.
Residents were handed forms allowing them to document damage as they returned to inspect their homes. Among other questions, the form asks: “Is your house still liveable?”
With a long recovery period now ahead, almost 30 residents had departed for safer temporary shelter in Hay River on Saturday night. Fort Simpson’s mayor, Sean Whelly, has said finding better accommodation for evacuees is a priority. Though some have left for other communities, many are living in tents on higher ground near the island.
The extent of the damage to island homes is not yet fully clear, and many families may be unable to immediately return home. Though donations and cash contributions have accumulated rapidly in the past week, repairing property and giving residents somewhere inhabitable to live will take much longer.
The Canadian Rangers are due to lend support in the weeks ahead, the federal government said on Saturday. Whelly said the village was now drawing up longer-term plans so residents would know what to expect.
Though the scale of the task ahead is daunting, volunteers and donors have worked to keep spirits high among displaced residents.
The saga of a pair of golden high heels that arrived among donations raised a smile this week, earning $2,500 for flood-hit families in the process.