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South Slave

May 12: Hay River and KFN evacuate, thousands displaced

Last modified: May 12, 2022 at 8:42pm

Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation spent Thursday under evacuation orders after a fresh surge of riverwater flooded central areas of the town.

Evacuees arrived in Yellowknife throughout the day, while others made for Fort Smith or communities in northern Alberta. Some 600 spaces for evacuees in Yellowknife were opened up.

On this page, we provided updates as we received them. You can also check our page for evacuees reaching Yellowknife and our full reports on the overnight flood and Thursday aftermath.

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KEY UPDATES:


20:11 – Thanks for joining our live coverage, brought to you by Ollie Williams, Emily Blake, Sarah Pruys, Caitrin Pilkington, Megan Miskiman and Sophie Kuijper Dickson. We’re ending our live reporting for Thursday. Our reporting will continue throughout Friday and beyond. Scroll down for updates as they happened throughout May 12, 2022.


20:10 – In an evening update, the Town of Hay River said water levels remain very high and the road into Hay River remains closed.

“A surge of the river this afternoon caused a recurrence of flooding in various locations within the community, including the north end of Miron Drive, the downtown, and Cranberry Crescent. Multiple rescues were performed. Property damage is being reported throughout the town,” town officials wrote.

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“Water and ice levels are have risen to new peaks today within the main portion of the town. Water levels at Paradise Gardens have receded and water is no longer flowing above properties.

“Remaining pushes are anticipated to cause more flooding through the community. As such, emergency crews are continuing to focus on response activities and the evacuation order remains in place. Entry into the community is restricted to emergency and essential services.”


19:44 – RCMP confirmed a 43-year-old Kátł’odeeche First Nation man who was missing since early Thursday morning has been found safe.


Thousands of people wait with uncertainty having left their homes and many of their possessions behind as floodwaters continue to rise in Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation. 

Territorial officials say they are prepared to help with cleanup and recovery efforts once the water recedes, but it could take years before people receive financial compensation to repair damages. 

“We do not know the extent of the damage as Hay River continues to flood,” municipal and community affairs minister Shane Thompson told reporters on Thursday afternoon. “Ice jams have not yet released.”

Premier Caroline Cochrane said the territory will be seeking reimbursement from the federal government but it’s a lengthy process that will take a couple of years. She said the NWT government has not yet “finalized last year’s filing the papers” for damages resulting from flooding.

“I want to ensure that residents know that money is a concern but our primary concern is the safety of residents,” she said.


17:56 – Northwestel warned users their services may be disrupted during the period of the flood and evacuation order.

“Residential and small business customers will be credited for service during the evac period,” the company said on Twitter. “Northwestel is working to keep internet and phone services available for residents and emergency responders.”


17:46 – Dinner at the multiplex on Thursday evening came courtesy of Yellowknife restaurant Copperhouse. On Friday morning, we’ll look at how authorities must now devise a long-term plan for evacuees with no immediate likelihood of their being able to return home.


16:37 – Still to come this evening, we’ll have a report from the GNWT’s afternoon news conference plus any further breaking news from Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation. We’ve also just updated the breakup page with the latest on each river.

In the meantime, this is the first time Cabin Radio has produced a live page like this to cover news. Help us out by telling us if you found it useful:

If you have suggestions for ways we can improve this kind of coverage when events are unfolding quickly, email our editor with your feedback.


16:18 – The GNWT says the emergency management organization is not currently aware of any injuries or missing individuals. (The RCMP have issued a request for help locating a missing person – the GNWT, at this briefing, said it had no information on that case.)


16:08 – Keep receipts and take photos is the message from Shane Thompson to flood-affected residents at the GNWT’s news conference. Contact your insurance provider if you have one.


16:02 – A GNWT news conference featuring Premier Caroline Cochrane and municipal and community affairs minister Shane Thompson has begun.

The territory says it has accommodation for some 660 people available in Yellowknife via city facilities and the military, plus hotel rooms for people with medical needs.

So far, we’re told by staff at the multiplex that 179 people have arrived and registered.

Approximately 35 people have arrived in three buses from Enterprise.

The territory says one problem is not knowing precisely how many people to expect.

Separately, Yellowknife city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett said the broader challenge facing the city will be “playing the long game.” That means figuring out how to house and look after people for extended periods given the severity of the flood damage in Hay River.

We’ll have more from the GNWT and the city shortly.


15:48 – RCMP have confirmed that while officers have a checkpoint at the start of Highway 2 in Enterprise, people needing to cross that checkpoint to get to Fort Smith or Fort Resolution won’t be turned away.

“Traffic is free to go back and forth to Fort Resolution and Fort Smith,” said Insp Barry LaRocque, “but still restricted from going back into the community. We’re just making sure people are not trying to get back into Hay River.”


15:39 – The GNWT has confirmed parks in both the North Slave and South Slave are open for evacuees to use.


15:38 – Nikki Ashton is running a “master list” of accommodation offers via Facebook, connecting evacuees with spaces.


15:34 – There are now dozens of offers from people in Yellowknife trying to find ways to help Hay River evacuees in the city. Check out the list on our Facebook page or add an offer of your own.


15:31 – The Nova hotel group said it would offer a discounted friends-and-family rate to anyone affected by the floods at any of its hotels.


Hay River RCMP are seeking the public’s assistance in locating a Kátł’odeeche First Nation man.

Kelly Daniel Minoza, 43, was last seen near the south entrance of the First Nation’s Beaver Road at approximately 3am on Thursday.

He is described as being 5 ft 9 in and 150 lbs with a medium build. He was wearing all black when last seen, possibly with a camouflage jacket.


On Thursday morning, Joe and Mikey McBryan of Buffalo Airways flew to Hay River and Kátł’odeeche First Nation to survey the flood damage from the air.

Narrating a video published to YouTube later that same day, Mikey said what they saw was “absolute craziness.”

Watch the footage here.


15:10 – The NWT government’s Department of Infrastructure has provided an update on the Kátł’odeh Hay River Bridge, the bridge that provides a vital link to Fort Smith and Fort Resolution. The bridge was a subject of concern for residents who have seen chunks of ice begin to press against it.

“There is currently no threat to the bridge as the water and ice levels are within the allowable thresholds,” department spokesperson Sarah E McLeod said by email.

“GNWT staff continue to monitor the ever-evolving situation and inspect GNWT structures, including highways and bridges, in the South Slave region. Once water levels recede, the Kátł’odeh Hay River Bridge will be further inspected.”


14:47 – A volunteer registration table has been established at Yellowknife’s multiplex for residents who want to offer help.


The water in central Hay River continued to rise on Thursday afternoon, offering no suggestion that people will be able to return to the community any time soon.

Thousands of residents in Hay River and the neighbouring Kátł’odeeche First Nation were ordered to evacuate late on Wednesday. In a Thursday afternoon update, the news was bleak.

There is so far no sign of the water beginning to recede, the Town of Hay River stated, and the municipal sewage and water systems are buckling.

“It’s going to take months, if not years in some cases, to restore our community,” senior administrator Glenn Smith told Cabin Radio when reached at his home. Like many, he had not slept all night.

Read the latest from Smith as of 2:30pm on Thursday.


14:17 – The Town of Hay River says Fort Smith has joined Yellowknife as a designated host community for evacuees (Fort Simpson earlier made a separate offer). You can also camp at Louise Falls, Escarpment Creek or Kakisa, all of which are being opened up.

“A significant ice jam is still within the northern portion of the community boundaries,” the town stated at 2pm. “Ice is broken and packed from both the West and East Channels to Delancey Estates.

“Water levels are again rising at this time and causing more flooding. Remaining pushes are anticipated to cause more flooding through the community. As such, emergency crews are continuing to focus on response activities and the evacuation order remains in place. Entry into the community is restricted to emergency and essential services.”

The town says its sewage system has been “heavily compromised” and more than half of homes don’t have functioning sewer services. Some areas remain without power, including the water treatment plant (a boil-water advisory was issued earlier). Anyone who didn’t evacuate is asked to conserve water.

“The town will communicate with evacuees as soon as more information is known,” the statement concluded.

“This is a difficult time for our community. Please remember that people today are tired, worried and under a lot of stress. Be kind to one another. Take actions that are productive to getting through this together.”


13:42 – From our reporter Megan Miskiman at Yellowknife’s multiplex:

More and more families are starting to arrive. Officials have been here since midnight planning and setting up for evacuees. Many have not yet slept and are continuing to work. Doors opened for evacuees at 3am, and the first family arrived around 4:30am.

Officials are prepared to see half of the approximately 4,000 Hay River evacuees coming to Yellowknife to stay at the multiplex or in the community. They are confident in their ability to find capacity for those who need a place to stay.

“If we needed to house half of Hay River, we would be able to do so,” said Crystal Craig, territorial manager for child and youth placement services.

Supports will continue as long as they are needed, staff said.

Services for youth are being provided by counsellors in the neighbouring fieldhouse.

“We have packages for children, and child and youth counsellors who will be able to help with the traumatic moving in the night, and I’m confident that we are prepared to deal with the youth that come through the doors,” said Arlene Lavoie-Stobbs, territorial director of child and family services and community wellness.

Yellowknife’s gymnastics club is allowing kids to go in and play at certain times, which was having an evident positive impact on the spirits of many.

Residents have been coming to the multiplex to ask how they can help. Officials are taking their names and numbers and a sense of what they’re willing to do. They will be contacted when needed.

Residents are asked to hold off on donations for now.


Residents in Enterprise worked quickly to help thousands of people fleeing Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation in the middle of the night. 

Around 4,000 residents were ordered to evacuate both communities late on Wednesday following unprecedented flooding in the region. Chief April Martel advised people to head for the nearby community of Enterprise and buses helped to transport those without vehicles. 

Enterprise Mayor Michael St Amour told Cabin Radio a steady stream of people, vehicles and pets began arriving around midnight.

The hamlet gas station and convenience store opened to travellers while the community centre, around 20 households, and two empty staff houses opened their doors to offer people places to stay. 

“It was a rough night for everyone,” said St Amour, who was heading to bed around noon on Thursday. 


13:16 – In an emergency message sent to residents, the Town of Fort Smith said there was no local impact from flooding but the town was “working closely with Maca and Infrastructure” to get updates on Highway 5 road conditions.

The Pine Point bridge has been a source of concern for some residents of Fort Resolution and Fort Smith, as it’s the only road connection to those communities. Photos show ice pressing up against the bridge.

So far, the Department of Infrastructure has not provided comment regarding the bridge. RCMP have yet to respond to a request for clarification regarding the precise location of local road closures.


Hay River, Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Enterprise, and Kakisa were placed under a boil-water advisory on Thursday afternoon.

The territory’s chief environmental health officer is advising people in the four South Slave communities to boil drinking water for at least one minute.

“This advisory is precautionary due to flooding in Hay River. Power outages and other operational issues may prevent drinking water from being disinfected prior to distribution,” a news release from the NWT’s Department of Health and Social Services stated.


12:43 – The NWT government will hold a briefing for reporters “on the flooding situation and emergency response” at 3:45pm. We’ll have a reporter there and bring you the latest (but it won’t be live-streamed)


12:19 – The City of Yellowknife has just released updated guidance on how people can help. The city wrote:

“If your community group would like to host an activity or event for evacuees, please contact the City at events@yellowknife.ca so that events can be coordinated.

“If your business would like to provide assistance, please contact the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce at executivedirector@ykchamber.com so that efforts can be coordinated.

“Individuals who wish to help are encouraged to make cash donations as material donations create logistical problems for emergency agencies trying to meet the demands of this serious incident.”


12:08 – “Birds are chirping, kids are playing. It’s relaxed.”

In Enterprise, there are still some 200 people figuring out what their next move will be. Many plan to head up to Yellowknife, though a few have parked RVs at the campground, which has been opened up.


12:00 – Lunch is being served for evacuees at the Yellowknife multiplex. A larger convoy of evacuees is expected to reach the city later on Thursday.


Fort Simpson and the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation are inviting Hay River evacuees to find sanctuary in their Dehcho community after this week’s devastating flood.

This time last year, Fort Simpson was the epicentre of flooding considered among the worst the territory had seen. This year, the village is so far unscathed but Hay River is witnessing unprecedented damage.

“We’d like to offer our community as an evacuation site,” said Mayor of Fort Simpson Sean Whelly, who said doing so was a joint initiative with the First Nation.

“If people want to make their way here to the ferry crossing, we’ll find a way to get them across with the helicopter and do what we can to accommodate them here.”


11:42 – The indoor garage sale supposed to take place in Yellowknife’s multiplex this weekend will now run on June 11 instead, the city says.


11:10 – An update on donations. So far, there’s no process to accept donations at the multiplex in Yellowknife so don’t try. But there are some other methods to be aware of:

The Yellowknife Co-op is accepting donations at its tills and donating the proceeds to United Way NWT. That counts toward the total the GNWT has promised to match, so every dollar donated at the Co-op is in effect worth two.

There’s a big post on Facebook from Bhreagh Ingarfield thanking donors and seeking more items to take back from Yellowknife to the South Slave.

The Deninu Kue First Nation has begun accepting donations.

We’ve created a Facebook thread where people can volunteer assistance or find help.

The Salvation Army in Yellowknife asked people to hold off sending donations for the time being, while a list is compiled of items that are in demand.


10:45 – Our reporter Megan Miskiman at Yellowknife’s multiplex:

“Even if people are coming from Hay River to stay with family, officials are asking they still check in with the evacuation centre so they know everyone is safe. The phone number to do that is 1-833-699-0188 or in person here if they haven’t already.

“Staff are asking people to not bring donations as of now. They don’t have the process yet for that and are focusing on people first.

“Evacuees coming here have access to beds, food, medical services, and counselling services for both youth and adults.”

Showers are available either at the fieldhouse or the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool.


10:36 – A reminder that Hay River’s airport is closed. Canadian North and Air Tindi have each confirmed the indefinite cancellation of their flights to and from the town.


10:31 – The YK Playgroup Association is offering help for families: “Any families displaced coming to Yellowknife with kids can join any of the sessions offered by the YK Playgroup Association for free so their children can play and have some fun while here.”


10:14 – A lot of people are asking how they can volunteer. So far, we don’t have any information. We’ve asked for guidance on that and will bring it to you as soon as we have it.


10:10 – The NWT government said communities’ “worst fears were realized” in a statement, adding the territorial emergency management organization would “continue to monitor and work with communities to address emergency needs, including evacuation centres.”

The territory’s statement added: “To the residents of Hay River and Kátł’odeeche First Nation, we see you and we know that these are incredibly challenging times for you. While we don’t yet know the extent of the damage, as the river continues to flood parts of your communities, our government is committed to ensuring your safety and to providing the support you need.”

The territory, which just this week called for more federal funding to tackle climate change, said the Hay River flooding was “a stark reminder that the impacts of climate change will continue to challenge the resiliency of northerners and the communities we all live in.”

9:59 – If you headed south from Hay River, a vet clinic in Manning, AB is offering assistance with pets.


9:50 – There are still seats available for transport from Enterprise to Yellowknife. Tracy invited anyone needing a ride to come to Cash and Carry in Enterprise.


9:48 – The latest update on river conditions just came in from GNWT hydrologists.

“Ice began to shift yesterday with an ice jam from upstream moving into the downstream ice jam near town. This shift in ice caused water levels to increase rapidly through the Town of Hay River and Kátł’odeeche First Nation,” the update reads.

“Water levels are extremely volatile right now and impacted by ice in the channel. Rapid changes in water levels are possible.

“The upstream gauges on the main stem of the Hay River continue to slowly increase as snowmelt water moves through the system. The smaller upstream tributaries to the Hay River (in Alberta) are starting to decrease.”

We’ll have that in our breakup updates page shortly.


9:44 – Hay River’s health centre has moved to an emergency footing. All regular appointments are cancelled, call 875-8050 for urgent matters. Hay River’s health authority said residents of long-term care and supportive living facility Woodland Manor had been moved to the health centre.


9:40 – Julie Green, the NWT’s health minister, said people who had been homeless in Hay River had been taken by bus south to Enterprise.


9:35 – Brad Mapes, at Aurora Wood Pellets in Enterprise, offered room for people to park. Meanwhile, the NWT Power Corporation said its Hay River office would be closed following the evacuation order.


Hay River evacuees arriving in Yellowknife are being asked to head directly to the city’s multiplex to register. Hundreds of cots are set up and food is available.

Staff arrived to prepare the multiplex at 2am on Thursday. By 8:30am, around 375 cots had been established in the facility’s two arenas. Officials said around 30 people had arrived at the multiplex by that point.

A bulletin board in the facility’s foyer has been established and will contain important information about services available to evacuees.

We’re keeping a page updated with info for Yellowknife-bound evacuees.

The multiplex is otherwise closed to the public, the city said.


Overnight flooding has caused “extensive damage throughout the community,” Town of Hay River officials said in a written statement early on Thursday morning.

The town was evacuated late on Wednesday as floodwater reached the downtown, an outcome not previously considered likely. By 6am on Thursday, the water had not subsided.

If anything, the situation was worsening as the morning progressed.

“Another push and release of the ice system is currently occurring through town. Any residents still in the community should be on high ground or take shelter at the community centre,” town officials said shortly after 8am.

“Additional pushes may follow.”

Read more about the scene in Hay River early on Thursday.


Fort Smith resident to host musical fundraiser

Fort Smith resident Andrew Shedden is inviting performers and spectators to a pay-what-you-can fundraiser for Hay River residents affected by flooding.

Shedden will host the open-stage event at Dirty O’Fergies on Friday from 7pm till 11pm.

This will be Shedden’s second year in a row hosting a fundraiser. Last year he was successful in raising around $1,800 for flood-affected residents of Fort Simpson.


NWT matching United Way donations

The Northwest Territories government has pledged to match up to $150,000 in donations to the United Way to support residents affected by flooding this year.

Finance minister Caroline Wawzonek said donating to United Way NWT was “one of the most effective ways” to help those affected by flooding in the NWT.

The territorial government said those funds will be disbursed by a number of organizations providing aid in affected communities.

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