Hay River reports extensive flood damage as second wave of water and ice hits community


Ice and floodwater caused “significant” damage in Hay River, Northwest Territories, according to Chief Administrative Officer Glenn Smith.

A second wave of water and ice began moving through the community Thursday morning around 8 a.m. The city is warning residents who are still in Hay River to find high ground or take shelter at the community center. There may be more surges to come.

An evacuation order, issued late Wednesday evening, remains in place for the entire community. Residents who initially traveled to Enterprise should head to Yellowknife instead, Smith said. RCMP officers enforce road closures at Enterprise.

Residents who are still in Hay River should stay in their current accommodations, according to a 5:30 a.m. update from the city, and not cross Hay River “due to citywide hazards.”

Evacuation order issued for all of Hay River, Northwest Territories

An evacuation order has been issued for the entire community of Hay River, Northwest Territories, and some 3,500 residents have been told to move to higher ground or the community center.

Hay River is a central community of over 3,800 people in the South Slave region of the Northwest Territories. It sits where the Hay River meets Great Slave Lake.

The ice moved during the night but got stuck again. The update indicates that water levels remain high and there are ice jams extending from the western and eastern channels to the Delancey Estates area.

Smith called for patience while workers assess the damage done to the community and develop a plan to get residents back.

“Some areas are going to take time,” he said. “We are preventing people from returning to the community until we have completed this assessment and determined what return plans look like.

“We’re hearing about water…abundant water coming through the storm systems and really flooding areas that weren’t even close to the river because of it – water on the banks, entering several residential areas. “

The city’s emergency management organization will meet this morning to coordinate a damage assessment. Smith said they will need to determine where it is safe to operate from and assess damage to their infrastructure.

Smith said he received reports that at least one person needs to be rescued from a roof. Crews had to wait for the sun to rise before tackling any rescues.

Search underway on the K’atl’odeeche reservation for a missing person

K’atl’odeeche First Nation Chief April Martel said the reservation was evacuated overnight, but a search is underway to find someone who was left behind.

As floodwaters rose in the reserve, Martel and other workers stayed behind to look for this person. They finally had to leave because the water rose quickly.

She called the RCMP to help with the search and rescue, and a few community members are still searching the reserve.

“He knows how to do survival mode, so I think he’ll be fine,” Martel said.

Martel said he was unsure if he was in the community at this time and a lot of damage had been done.

Martel video posted on Facebook Wednesday evening showed a house that flew away.

On the lookout for a second rise in water

Jane and Rick Groenewegen are among those still in Hay River. Jane Groenewegen owns several properties in Hay River and is currently staying on the fourth floor of the Cambridge Hotel, from where she has a view of the river.

Speaking to CBC Thursday morning, Groenewegen said they were preparing for another surge that could come this morning.

Water floods the street outside the Whispering Willows seniors’ complex in downtown Hay River. CBC News saw a woman being rescued from this car by a man in waders. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

She said the overnight surge rushed to Saskatoon Drive, a residential neighborhood on the north side of the new town of Hay River.

It also pierced the banks of Riverview Drive, which runs along the east side of the city.

“When we got the alert and got the call from the city to come here and start knocking on doors and telling our guests and tenants, when we walked out, Rick could hear ice breaking trees on Riverview Drive,” Groenewegen said.

The water flowed down the road, through a row of houses on Riverview Drive, and down into the ravine next to Groenewegen’s house.

“It was as if the ravine had become like a river,” she said.

Thursday has been sunny and expected to be warm so far, she said, but the question of a second wave is still up in the air.

“We are safe where we are. We understand the power can go out,” she said.

“We’ll be watching to see if another wave of water materializes, and what the impact will be. I have my truck pointed in the right direction, full of fuel, ready to go.”

The company opens its doors

Enterprise, a community of 116 people about 35 kilometers south of Hay River, took in about 160 people overnight, more than doubling its population.

Mayor Michael St Armor said that included 10 to 12 buses full of people.

“All we can do is help,” St Armor said.

Hay River rescue workers loaded buses full of people on Wednesday night when the town was flooded. They sent 10 to 12 whole buses to Enterprise. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

The hamlet has opened its recreation center and fire station to visitors, setting up cots. Members of the community opened their homes to friends and around 20 people took refuge in two empty houses in the community, others were taken in at the local Cash and Carry.

“There are about 60 to 70 people sleeping with children, infants,” he said. “Pets are tied outside but we can’t help everyone.”

The city, which relies on trucked water and sewer services, has also taken care to keep water tanks full to serve unexpected guests.

“I’m tired,” admitted St Armor, but added: “Things are going to be fine.

“As long as people are safe and not in danger, it’s fine, right?