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

According to senior administrative officer Glenn Smith, ice and flooding have caused “extensive” damage in Hay River, NWT.

A second wave of water and ice began to rip through the community around 8 a.m. Thursday morning. The city is warning residents still in Hay River to seek higher ground or shelter in the community center. There may be more peaks to come.

An evacuation order, issued late Wednesday night, remains in effect for the entire community. Residents who originally went to Enterprise should instead go to Yellowknife, Smith said. RCMP officers enforce road closures at Enterprise.

Residents still in Hay River should remain in their current accommodations, according to a 5:30 a.m. update from the city, and not travel through Hay River “because of the dangers in the city.”

Eviction notice issued for all of Hay River, NWT

An evacuation order has been issued for the entire community of Hay River, NWT, asking approximately 3,500 residents to move to higher ground or the community center. 10:07

Hay River is a hub community of more than 3,800 in the South Slave region of the NWT. It is located where the Hay River meets the Great Slave Lake.

The ice shifted overnight but got stuck again. The update stated that water levels remain high and that there are ice jams extending from the western and eastern canals as far as the Delancey Estates area.

Smith called for patience as workers assess the damage to the community and devise a plan to return residents.

“Some areas need time,” he said. “We are holding people back from returning to the community until we complete that assessment and determine what return plans look like.

“We hear of water … extensive water flowing through storm systems and thereby really flooded areas that weren’t even close to the river — water over riverbanks, penetrating several residential areas.”

The city’s disaster relief organization is meeting this morning to coordinate a damage assessment. Smith said they need to find out where it is safe to operate and assess damage to their infrastructure.

Smith said they have received reports that at least one person needs to be rescued from a roof. Crews had to wait for the sun to rise before making any rescue efforts.

Search underway on K’atl’odeeche missing person reserve

K’atl’odeeche First Nation Chief April Martel said the reserve was evacuated overnight, but a search is now underway for a person who was left behind.

As the water rose in the reserve, Martel and other workers continued to search for that person. They eventually 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 reservation.

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

Martel said it is not safe to be in the community at this time and much damage has been done.

Watching a second wave of water

Jane and Rick Groenewegen are some of those who are still in Hay River. Jane Groenewegen owns several properties in Hay River and currently resides on the fourth floor of the Cambridge hotel, overlooking the river.

Speaking to CBC Thursday morning, Groenewegen said they are preparing for another wave of water that could come this morning.

The street outside the Whispering Willows seniors complex in downtown Hay River is flooded. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

She said the wave swept through Saskatoon Drive at night, a residential area on the north side of Hay River’s New Town.

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

“When we got the warning and we got the call from the city to come here and go door to door and notify our guests and our tenants, as we stepped outside Rick heard that the ice from trees broke on Riverview Driving,” said Groenewegen.

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

“It was as if the ravine then became like a river,” she said.

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

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

“We’ll see if there’s another wave of water coming up and what its impact will be. I’ve got my truck pointed in the right direction, full of fuel, ready to go.”

Enterprise opens its doors

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

Mayor Michael St Armor said there were 10 to 12 busloads of people.

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

Hay River rescuers loaded buses full of people on Wednesday evening when the city was submerged. They sent 10 to 12 busloads to Enterprise. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

The hamlet opened its leisure center and fire hall to visitors and set up cots. Community members opened their homes to friends and about 20 people took refuge in two empty homes in the community, while others were welcomed into the local Cash and Carry.

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

The city, which relies on trucked water and sewage services, has also been busy keeping its water tanks full to serve the unexpected guests.

“I’m tired,” St. Armor admitted, adding, “I’ll be fine.

“As long as people are safe and they’re not in danger, we’re all good, right?”

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