‘We’re still on high alert’ says Aklavik mayor as water levels continue to waver


Amid rising water levels, Aklavik Mayor Andrew Charlie says many roads are still drivable, and spirits remain high.

Water started to cover what Allen Kogiak described as the hamlet's 'back road.' (Submitted by Allen Kogiak)

The hamlet of Aklavik, N.W.T., is still on high alert as water levels continue to waver, says Mayor Andrew Charlie on Monday.

"Water levels are still kind of high," Charlie said. "It's dropped for a bit and then it comes up a bit, drops again."

He says many of the roads are still above water, since in the past, the community had elevated some of the roads. However, a few were still submerged as of Monday morning, including a service road to the community's dump.

"People are still getting around," Charlie said.

The remote community of roughly 600 people was on flood watch for about a week and is the latest of several communities in the Northwest Territories to be affected by historic flooding on the Mackenzie River, caused by the spring breakup.

The hamlet is on the bank of the Peel Channel, which is affected by the Mackenzie River. A state of emergency was declared in the community over the weekend.

He said both stores, which "have stocked up and prepared for this" remain open, along with the post office. Schools and the local gas station are shut down.

Charlie said houses in the community have not been damaged for the time being. Most homes are built up off the ground.

Evacuation from the community began on Sunday morning, with about 140 people flown to Inuvik. About 26 others who are vulnerable or elderly, had earlier left the community as a precaution.

Water was drawing closer to some homes in the hamlet of Aklavik, N.W.T., on Sunday morning.(Submitted by Allen Kogiak)

Many people went to stay with relatives in Inuvik, Charlie said, while others were welcomed to the Midnight Sun Complex in Inuvik, and at Aurora College residences.

"Inuvik is showing its hospitality … everybody's taken care of over there."

Charlie told CBC News Sunday morning that water levels had risen to 16.2 metres — the same height as the last significant flood in 2006. That's 1.1 metres below the highest record on file, according to the Northwest Territories government.

"We've been warning our residents about this," he said on Monday. "Whatever happens up river … eventually, we'll get the same action down here. Right now everybody's in good spirits, we're just going to wait this out."

He says when the hamlet feels it's safe, it will lift the state of emergency and then it will start bringing residents back.

"Once the levels go down and people come down, we'll start to clean up," he said, adding it's mostly a matter of cleaning the ditches. "We'll get that done in a couple of days."

"We have no more ice running on the Peel Channel," said Charlie. "We aren't expecting … more ice down the Mackenzie [River] … we know the ice jam at the Horseshoe [Bend] that could start drifting more water in our direction. It's just a wait and see."

Charlie said the service road has to be visible before the state of emergency is lifted.

Helping make a comfortable stay

Neil Heron is one of the evacuees from Aklavik, N.W.T. He says he misses home, but that he's happy with the arrangements in Inuvik.(Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Neil Heron was about one of 28 people who chose to stay at the complex.

"Because the water was getting too high and I figured I'd get out for my own safety. In 2006 we had water all over the main street. We can drive out boats down the main street. This year it's not that bad," said Heron.

He said preparing for flooding is like second nature to Aklavik residents.

Although Heron misses the comfort of his own bed, he says he's happy with the temporary set-up.

Inuvik residents and organizations stepped up with donations like children's knapsacks, diapers, snacks, coffee mugs, toys, games and drinks.

"The residents of Inuvik have been there usual 'how can we help?'" said Grant Hood, senior administrative officer. "We have gotten lots of 'what can we do? How can we donate with the resources that they have?'"

Donations were brought in by Inuvik residents for flood evacuees from Aklavik.(Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

A T.V. was even brought in so Aklavik residents wouldn't miss watching the Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs game.

Hood says at this point they haven't been told more evacuees will come. The last time Aklavik residents evacuated to the town was in 2006.

"We wait. It's out of our control," said Hood. "We'll just accommodate the people that are here."

With files from Wanda McLeod and Mackenzie Scott

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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