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.
Here’s the latest from Smith as of 2:30pm on Thursday.
The Hay River is still filled with ice from Great Slave Lake down the East and West Channels all the way to Delancey Estates.
Smith said ice was reportedly shifting on the tail end but, from his home, he had yet to see any movement.
He is anticipating a lot of water still to come from the south, where rain and snow were near-constant all weekend. More flooding, to an even greater extent, is not out of the question.
“People cannot return,” Smith said. “We’re still in an evacuation order until this risk subsides.”
Entry into the community is restricted to emergency and essential services.
A full assessment of the damage done by the floodwater has begun.
“The issue right now is with the sewage lift station,” Smith said, explaining that one station – which provides sewage processing for about half of the community – is currently flooded, with water halfway up the building.
Residents living from McRorie Drive running north through the downtown and out to Eagle Crescent and the West Channel bridge are without sewage service. The town is unable to move waste through the pipe system.
Smith said the town’s water treatment plant was running on backup water. (A boil-water advisory is in effect for South Slave communities, as is typical for this time of year, and Hay River residents who didn’t evacuate were asked to conserve water.)
Areas of the community are still without power. Power lines are being inspected for potential safety hazards.
“We need to be able to restore or provide services before people can come into town,” Smith said.
He expects the town to take a gradual approach to bringing people back home, whenever that may be.
That process will begin only once ice moves through, utilities are restored, and the town is sure that there are no downed power lines or any type of other hazard that could cause risk to human safety.
“We’re doing the best we can to ensure people can return safely and as quickly as possible,” Smith said.
“We recognize that it’s going to take months, if not years in some cases, to restore our community.”