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BREAKING:K’atlodeeche First Nation evacuating

K’atlodeeche First Nation saw some of the worst of spring break-up over the weekend as flooding forced the entire band to evacuate, May, 8.
The reserve road on K’atlodeeche First Nation saw water creeping up from the river which has led to members being on high alert for emergency evacuation over the weekend. photo courtesy of Margaret McKay

K’atlodeeche First Nation saw some of the worst of spring break-up over the weekend as flooding forced the entire band to evacuate, May, 8.

Chief April Martel said that all KFN are safe and accommodated as of May 9. The community, however, remains on high alert.

“The wellness centre is being used as a command post and other First Nation residents have been leaving due to the flood warnings. We also have a twenty-four seven team who have been patrolling the flood watch,” Martel said.

She added that elders and large families who reside in the reserve have been relocated to hotels in Hay River and that GNWT’s Department of Municipal and Community Affairs is providing financial support.

As of Monday morning, Martel said the river is moving and the First Nation is planning to relocate residents staying at the wellness centre using buses.

Chief Sunrise Education Centre principal Deborah Reid said the reserve’s district education authority closed the school for Monday.

“It only made sense because there were already so many parts of the reserve already on an evacuation order,” Reid said, also noting that buses would have a hard time with transportation.

“They have evacuated the old village and lower parts of the Wolf Drive area and even people at wellness centre have been worried because water was coming across the highway,” she said. The concern is they might not be able to get out at the junction and there has been a lot of concern about where the reserve can put people and the extent to which everyone will be able to get out. All around the arbour is being flooded.”

Reid said the school itself is built on high ground and it has its own generator to provide warmth.

The Ehdah Cho Store on the reserve opened late on Sunday so that people could get gas and other supplies as needed, Reid said.

Former Chief Roy Fabian and his wife and grandchildren were among the few who remained on the reserve as of May 9.

He said that he has experienced other floods in the community’s history, including the major 1963 flood and this year’s experience has conjured up memories and emotions. Fabian’s father and mother at the time assisted elders who needed help during a massive flood and also provided assistance to young people who were out on the land during a spring hunt.

“I’ve seen all that stuff relating to floods and I have been been through a couple of them,” he said.

“You understand the safety issues and in general take precautions. So it is not a big issue.”

Still, Fabian said he is worried about the effects flooding patterns will have on the community, including in the old village.

“Hopefully the old village will be okay, but we don’t know the condition over there because we’re not allowed to go down there,” he said. “So I don’t know whether it is flooding or not. We won’t know until ice breaks and check old village.”

Fabian said he believes if current weather and climate patterns continue in the future where warmer weather lingers in the autumn and colder weather lasts late into the winter, that it could contribute to continued major flooding events because the ice jam doesn’t deteriorate as it should.

“We will have to wait a little while and hope the weather warms up over the next couple of days,” he said.

“Once the ice jam deteriorates and melts and thaws the ice will go out. It is unfortunate that we all got flooded in the whole process. It is a sad time.”