Edmonton, Alberta – All 4,000 people have been evacuated from a town northwest of the Hay River due to floodwaters that have reached the center of the community.
The city of Yellowknife has opened an evacuation center for people fleeing the O River in search of safety, and at Fort Providence, the Big River Gas Station has assisted evacuators overnight. Other residents appear to be heading north to Alberta.
The local infrastructure department announced the only road connection to the city’s Val Island – where the local airport is located – had been closed.
Earlier on Wednesday, a portion of the ice melted, sending fresh water waves towards the O River, and the city center was covered in one foot or more of water within minutes. Some residents were reportedly rescued from their homes by boat.
The city is at the mouth of the O River where it flows into the Great Slave Lake and is essentially a small delta through which multiple rivers flow.
The ice in those channels blocked the jammed water, and one weekend of rain and snow in the river basin added more water to that system.
“In the winter the basin had a lot of snow, a lot of snow and then the storm hit – initially as rain, which then flowed directly into streams and creeks, hitting the water level as well – and it was parked. The whole basin, ”said regional hydrologist Shawn Cockelj this week.
“What we’re seeing now is that there’s still a lot of high water coming upstream because there’s been a lot of rain, and now some snow is melting and so these small streams are feeding a lot.
Justin Gaudet of the Paddle Prairie Mtis Settlement, where about 800 people live, said a local emergency warning was issued Sunday after rain and snow melted six river water levels that elders in the community had seen more than 50 years earlier.
“Some of these homes do not have running water at the moment,” Gaudet said late Wednesday. “The members are very tired, very stressed, very anxious,” he said.
Gaudet said the water level had dropped, but the humidity and contaminated water posed a threat to mold damage, and he said some bridges had also been damaged.
“Many of our homes in the Hamlet area sit on wooden foundations and are about 40 to 50 years old,” he said. “Without bridges, people can’t leave their homes.”
About 845 kilometers northwest of Edmonton (525 miles), Chateher Dene Tha First Nation and Little Red River Crew are under local emergency alert due to flooding over the weekend.
The high-level mayor said Tuesday that some evicted residents living in city stables and hotels are running out of food.
“It’s a huge influx of people for our small community,” said Crystal McAteer.