When high water levels forced a young couple to evacuate their new home in Paradise Gardens over the weekend, they left behind their cat, and their dream.
Bhreagh Ingarfield and Thomas Whittaker moved to the area from Yellowknife in September, with plans to open a B&B. They had spent years living in what Whittaker described as a “small, shoddy apartment,” saving money to someday buy something better.
Paradise’s tightly knit community of small-scale farmers offered exactly the life they wanted for themselves.
“Finally, we found something, and it was beautiful,” Whittaker said.
“We knew it was close to the river, but everybody said Paradise never really floods,” Ingarfield said.
The couple said they saw the water levels rise and fall earlier this spring and thought that would be the end of it.
“We kind-of stopped watching the news as closely and went back to dealing with the puddles in the yard, which we thought were a big deal at the time,” Ingarfield laughed.
Early Sunday evening, their neighbour knocked on their door to tell them the water levels were rising again and they had to leave immediately. This was before they had received any government notification.
Whittaker walked down to the river to assess the situation for himself, wanting to hold on to some possibility that they could stay. When he saw the state of the river, he knew they had no choice but to evacuate.
Within half an hour, they had gathered their most essential items, put food out for their cat, and got in their truck.
“I wish we left sooner because we barely made it out,” Whittaker said. “We were one of the last people out of Paradise.”
The community spirit that first attracted the couple to the Paradise Gardens was not washed away in the flood.
“We saw people legitimately saving their neighbours,” Whittaker said, describing one resident using his tractor to get others safely across the flooded area.
After a night at the Hay River emergency shelter, the couple decided the best thing they could do for themselves, and for their community, would be to make a trip to Yellowknife to collect supplies.
In a post to the Yellowknife Classifieds Facebook page, Ingarfield put out a call for donations.
“We need to feel like we are doing something, so we are driving up to Yellowknife first thing today and looking for supplies to deal with the mess at Paradise once the waters break,” she wrote.
Ingarfield and Whittaker are hoping to collect trash pumps, generators, mould removers, hoses, and anything else people are willing to lend or donate that might help with relief efforts. They have a truck and trailer with them to transport whatever they collect and will rent a U-Haul if need be.
They said people looking to make donations can contact them directly through Facebook, or post to the Hay River Help group.
But Whittaker isn’t sure how they’ll even be able to get back to their property if the roads are washed out.
“It’s just a nightmare,” he said.
“I think we’ve been in shock for the past 48 hours, and we’re really kind-of coming out of it, and then maybe settling into a bit of a bit of a depression,” Ingarfield said.
“You kind-of invest everything when you go that route… into the land, into your home, into your business. And it’s literally being swept away.”