Residents began returning to their homes in Fort Simpson this week as the village starts to pick up the pieces after a catastrophic flood.
Village mayor Sean Whelly said that the community began welcoming back 40 evacuees from Fort Smith on May 19, but as of Wednesday was still treating the situation as a state of emergency.
“We are at a point where the community is getting back on its feet and it could have been a lot worse,” Whelly said. “A matter of inches or one foot of water more may have cost millions.”
Whelly said river conditions changed radically since he last spoke with NNSL Media late on May 14. At that time, the water levels were around the 16 metre mark.
The mayor said that in most cases, people returning to the village will be met with homes that are livable and not destroyed by flood damage. But he is worried there might be a few who face surprises.
“If any evacuees are to come back and open the door and find that they can’t live here, we have asked them to contact the local accommodations like motels or bed and breakfasts and book a room,” he said.
“Don’t call the village. We will pay in the short term and will see what can be done.”
The municipality has provided a property owners’ checklist for owners go over and assess whether homes are safe to live in following the flood.
He said that as of May 19, the village is keeping a checklist of costs of flood and emergency damage to homes and was aware of about nine houses that were completely flooded and likely to be unlivable.
“We are being asked by the territorial emergency management organization to help so that they can figure out the housing needs for those folks,” he said.
“We have somewhat of an idea but will determine in the next day or two.”
But he said the municipality was looking to offset some of the housing responsibilities to proper housing authorities like the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation so that he can focus on basic community government responsibilities like sewer and water maintenance, garbage and maintaining roads.
Whelly said he was uncertain what the housing needs will be for the next six months to a year and to what extent there will have to be structures rebuilt or replaced.
“Some were significantly impacted for sure,” he said. “But the village isn’t in the role of undertaking that housing responsibility.
As far as major infrastructure repair, Whelly said it appears that the village is okay at the moment.
“Most of our village buildings suffered no damage in the end,” he said.
The fact that the NWT Power Corporation was not flooded also helped in seeing that most buildings in the village were able to restore their power by Tuesday at 5 p.m.