Chief and council in Fort Good Hope have declared a state of emergency as water encroaches on the Sahtu community.
Councillor Arthur Tobac told Cabin Radio the emergency was officially declared at 10am on Tuesday after water levels rose overnight, caused by ice breaking downstream the day before.
“When the big ice went, it was just packed in on the river, going by so quickly,” Tobac said. “This morning, you could tell right away that the water levels were really rising rapidly.”
Water levels must be at 12 meters in Fort Good Hope to trigger an evacuation. An alarm was sounded in the community early Tuesday morning to alert those near the river that water was encroaching.
Thirteen households have been evacuated so far and are staying in other parts of the community. Another 24 are on notice to be evacuated Tuesday. Fuel and sewage tanks were emptied last week in preparation, as well as evacuation plans for the at-risk homes.
The NWT Power Corporation has cut off power to the south side of the community. Tobac said the Corporation would be arriving at 3pm to restore power to certain areas while keeping it shut off in high risk locations.
The Chief T’Selehye School in the community remains open.
When asked how long the state of emergency might last, Tobac said it will depend on how the rest of the break up season goes.
“Right now we’re watching the water levels,” Tobac said. “It’s a lot of ice – I have no idea what’s going to happen downstream. If there’s a jam, and it continues, I don’t know what it’s going to do to the water levels here.
“If the water comes right across the field, there’s going to be no road access to the other side of town.”
Fort Good Hope has been on flood watch for much of May.
Communities across the Sahtu – including Tulita, Aklavik, and Fort McPherson – have been preparing for potential flooding this spring as rivers and waterways continue to break up.
In Fort Simpson, where flooding was particularly severe, evacuees and services such as water and power have now returned. Residents of the smaller Jean Marie River, also flooded, are beginning work on the community’s recovery.
Chief and council is providing updates on the situation via radio throughout the day and at the band office.
Tobac urged the community of Fort Good Hope to remain calm and keep an eye on all children to make sure they stay away from flooded areas.