‘It was splattering on the windshield’: Woman describes fleeing after flooding in Northwest Territories Paradise Gardens

As floodwaters from the River Hay rose in Paradise Gardens on Sunday evening, a neighbor knocked on the door of the log home of Bhreagh Ingarfield and her partner Thomas Whittaker.

It was Roger Candow, a longtime river watcher. He told them, “You have to go now – the water is rushing down the road,” Ingarfield recalled.

The couple had watched the water levels rise and fall for days, waiting for them to come down as usual. When they bought their home in the fall in hopes of opening a bed and breakfast, no one remembered ever being flooded near the property, not even during the 1963 flood.

They had finally begun to relax, when the blow came. They had no more time.

“As we were leaving, we suddenly came to a section of the road where you could just see the water pouring over the bank… through the backwater, heading towards the yards, greenhouses and people’s houses. We were we’re kind of like, ‘Oh, my God, this is for real. It’s all going to be flooded,” Ingarfield said.

Homes, sheds, tanks and greenhouses were inundated at Paradise Gardens, where the waters of the Hay River overcame a 25ft bank. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

If they stayed home, they would be stuck. The only alternative was to drive their truck through water so deep it came over their windshield. A video of the trip also shows water splashing on the side windows.

“At one point my partner said, ‘You gotta cock it, you gotta cock it! “But the pedal was already on the ground and the force of the river crossing the road only pushed us,” she recalls.

“It splashed on the windshield as we went.”

Paradise Gardens sits in a backwater, or U-shaped bend, of the river, connected to the Mackenzie Highway by Paradise Road, which hugs the curve of the river. The general area is known as Paradise Valley – an agricultural haven midway between Enterprise and Hay River.

The Riverside Growers greenhouse stands in water and ice in Paradise Valley. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

Candow told CBC the river is usually about 25 feet from the top of the bank. The water rose rapidly and, when it reached the crest of the bank, flooded the narrowest part of the dead arm.

He was an official river watcher for the 14 years he lived at Paradise Gardens.

“I’ve never seen it like this. Some of the locals who’ve lived here for 40 years have never seen it like this,” he said.

His house is on a higher spot at the end of the backwater, and he hopes it’s still dry. The important thing, however, is that all people are out, he said – they can rebuild if they need to.

“The rest is just hardware, everything can be replaced,” he said.

Roger Candow said he hadn’t seen floods like this in the 14 years he monitored the river. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

Ingarfield and her partner spent Sunday night at the Hay River community center before heading to Yellowknife to pick up supplies — pumps, waders and anything else they might need when the waters recede.

They hope to bring a full truck and maybe a trailer full of supplies back to Hay River when they get back.

“Paradise is in a pretty tough spot right now,” she said. “Anyone can send stuff – we really need that.”

“Shocking and Horrifying”

The Town of Hay River released an update Tuesday morning saying the evacuation order is still in effect for Paradise Gardens, as well as Vale Island, where about 400 residents live. An evacuation alert is in place for waterfront properties within the Hay River boundary, and water levels in the community remain high, although they remain stable.

In some cases, water flowed down the road to Vale Island, which is just north of the Hay River mainland. The city is restricting travel to the island, and highway officers have set up a checkpoint on the bridge to control access.

The ice on the river has not moved overnight and the water continues to rise slowly.

Hay River Mayor Kandis Jameson said there was about five or six inches of water at any point on the highway and they expected “a lot more water.”

“We have streets that look like rivers… It’s shocking and it’s horrible to see what’s happening in Paradise Gardens,” she said.

“We know that the amount of water reaching us is still very high.”

“We have streets that look like rivers… It’s shocking and it’s horrible to see what’s happening in Paradise Gardens,” Mayor Kandis Jameson said. (Samantha Stuart Photography)

She called on residents to heed evacuation orders from Vale Island. When it’s safe, the city will allow people to go and check on their homes.

“I hope the message is clear that … it’s deadly to be on this island right now,” she said.

Jameson said about 250 people are displaced right now and hotels in Hay River are full. Community members and residents of Enterprise opened their homes to help those affected by the flooding.

The community snowfall warning has ended.

The city plans to hold a public meeting Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. at the community center to provide an update on water monitoring and flood response.