The worst of the flood appears to be over. Photos and hydrometric gauge data show water receding around Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation.
However, both the Town of Hay River and KFN Chief April Martel have firmly stated residents need to keep away for the time being while critical damage assessments and repair work take place.
The main concern in Hay River is a badly damaged sewage system, leaving many homes without working sewers. A boil-water advisory remains in effect. Some areas don’t have power.
Shortly before 4pm on Friday, the NWT’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the water level had reached a peak on Thursday morning. Ice had since begun to clear from the river channels around the town, ENR said, and water levels were receding.
“According to provisional data, water levels at the gauge site have dropped almost five metres since the peak yesterday morning,” ENR said on Friday afternoon.
While that news will be welcomed by evacuees and the municipality, the town still faces a huge cleanup even to restore Hay River to a level of service at which residents can return.
Hay River remains off-limits except for emergency access or recovery work that has been given “explicit approval,” the town said at 1pm.
“Several areas of the town are currently inaccessible, and water and sewer services are compromised.
“If you are not directly involved with the disaster response process, do not return at this time.”
Chief Martel dispelled a rumour that the First Nation was reopening to residents, pointing to the same issues as those experienced in neighbouring Hay River.
It’s likely to be at least Sunday before any residents of the communities are allowed to return. Yellowknife is preparing for some evacuees to face a significantly longer stay, depending on the length of the cleanup.
Appearing to pre-empt the frustration of some residents eager to check on their homes, the town issued a stern plea for people to stay away.
“It is critical that residents understand that their presence here is detrimental to our recovery effort,” the town stated.
“The sewer infrastructure system is interconnected, and wastewater will impact other zones. The town has not confirmed the availability of essential services, including health, food, transportation etc.”