“All it takes is one community siren,” says K’atl’odeeche Chief April Martel, “and then we’re all out of there.”
Martel said some areas of the community have started evacuating, including all of the old village and Wolf Dr., among others.
Martel says the residents that have evacuated have gone to hotels or the Dene Wellness Centre.
“We’re trying to utilize what we have right now in the community,” she says because some roads have been flooded out while others were blocked by snow and sleet.
Martel says she’s never seen this level of flooding before. She said Elders have told her water levels would not reach certain points, “And I’m like, yeah, but it’s reached that area already.”
Martel believes the changes are the result of climate change.
“Everything’s backwards,” she says. “It’s not the way it used to be back in the day… We have to start strategizing more, we have to start thinking that these things are not going to happen, and then they happen.”
For now, she’s cautioning members to fill their gas tanks and stock up on food in case of a widespread evacuation, and to stay safe.
‘We’re not going to close the doors’: Friendship centre taking in displaced residents
The Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre has become a refuge for people displaced by the flood. It’s providing food, shelter, “anything we can do at this point to aid our first responders,” says Joanna McKay, the centre’s executive director.
The centre has taken in about 30 people, mostly from Paradise Gardens. Some residents have come from Vale Island and KFN, as well.
“It’s difficult for me to see so many of our community members struggling right now,” says McKay.
While the centre has some supplies, it’s not currently setup to hold people overnight. Staff took out gymnastics mats for people to lie down, especially those with children so they can try and stick to their routines.
“We’re not going to close the doors to anyone at this point,” says McKay.
Some families shave been “bouncing around”, says McKay, after leaving their homes on Vale Island/West Channel to stay with friends or family in town, who have then had to either leave their homes or be on alert for possible evacuation.
“People are devastated,” she says. “Some are speechless, others are in tears, others are angry. There are a lot of emotions that come with this type of situation.”
She says residents that need support can contact the friendship centre and staff will do their best to find resources. She hope sresidents stay positive despite the circumstances.
“We’re doing the best we can,” she says. “That’s all we can do.”
Hay River leadership will be hosting a public meeting on the flood and response this evening at 7:30 p.m., at the community centre.
An update posted Tuesday morning said water levels continue to rise slowly, and that more water and ice is expected to hit the ice jam through the East and West Channels.
Parts of the highway to Vale Island are underwater, and access to the area is restricted.
While there is warmer weather forecasted over the coming days, the town says melting snow will put increased strain on the draining system that is already backed up in the flood.
The United Way has set up a fundraiser for to provide food and supplies, as well as start on recovery.
With files from Peter Menacho.