Residents of the community of Chateh in northern Alberta, west of High Level, could be away from their homes for several months after flooding forced them to flee on Sunday and Monday.
Some 1,100 people have left the Dene Tha’ First Nation community as water in the Sousa creeks, basin and surrounding waterways has continued to rise over the past few days.
Chateh is approximately 850 kilometers northwest of Edmonton.
Chief James Ahnassay of the Dene Tha’ First Nation, said many people are staying in motels in High Level, but some are sleeping on mats in the local arena.
“I feel very worried,” Ahnassay told CBC News on Monday.
“I pray and hope that everyone can work together, keep each other as families and friends, support each other, until this is all over and they start coming home one family at a time. or whatever. be the case.”
Ahnassay said residents who live on higher ground could return home soon, once the roads are repaired, but it could take months for the rest.
“Probably by July, end of July, maybe,” Ahnassay said.
Each year, the water level near the community usually rises with the spring thaw, Ahnassay noted, but it only flooded the community last year when it rained heavily.
It then took weeks for water levels to drop enough for residents to return, but this year he expects it to take even longer.
“It’s the worst flood we’ve ever had,” Ahnassay said.
Ahnassay attributed the cumulative effects of climate change, deforestation, construction, and increased rainfall to the higher likelihood of flooding.
Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said a First Nations Liaison Officer is on hand to assist the emergency response team on the ground.
“We are using the Tiger Dams which are a temporary method of flood mitigation and we will increase our response as the situation warrants,” McIver told media on Monday.
The Alberta Environment and Parks website lists the Sousa Creek basin as a flood warning as part of its notices and warnings.
“Water levels appear to be peaking in the community of Chateh, but will remain high over the next few days as the snow melts,” the site said.
Surface flooding has also been reported at Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement and Little Red River Cree Nation in John D’Or Prairie, the site says.
Between noon Thursday and Monday morning, between 50 and 120 mm fell in northwestern Alberta between Grande Prairie and west of High Level, although no significant precipitation is expected in the forecast.