Fort Simpson residents are inches from evacuating.
When the Mackenzie River reaches 15 metres, residents of the village will be forced to evacuate, according to Mayor Sean Whelly. At 11:15 a.m. Saturday, the river was at about 14 m.
Officials are now transporting long-term care patients and Elders to the Bannockland Inn and advising anyone in a vulnerable area to plan for departure.
Whelly encouraged residents to contact the recreation centre for tents, transportation or assistance.
The Recreation Centre can be reached at 867-695-3300.
Whelly told NNSL Media the village would be receiving 50 tents Saturday afternoon and planned to set up camp grounds across from Rowe’s Construction. He said there would be food, water and portable toilets.
He said some community members would also be evacuated to Yellowknife.
“If you need a tent or a place to stay, we’ll figure it out,” he said.
The evacuation alert “doesn’t mean people have to get off the island,” he said, but “we’re at the point where people do have to take it seriously.”
If the water rises to 14.5 m, a two-minute siren will sound in the village as “a last warning that people should be getting prepared,” Whelly said. At 15 m, the siren will be twice as long to indicate the evacuation is happening.
Whelly said that the village’s causeway is just over 16 m above water level so even with water rising to 15 m they would have some leeway, however some sections of the town would experience significant flooding damage.
At this point, he said there doesn’t seem to be any serious damage to property.
Shane Thompson, MLA for the district of Nahendeh, said that the village is following their emergency plan and has the situation under control.
He said there is always a plan in place to prepare for break-up season, but officials anticipated higher than normal water levels this year due to greater levels of snow and rain fall.
The mayor and fire department have been meeting in preparation for the past two months, Thompson said.
“Everyone is doing a great job. It’s well controlled and they’re following the plans they have in place.”
Jean Marie River, approximately 120 km east of Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie River, has lost cell service from water levels rising to the power plant.
In the past Whelly said high water levels have only lasted a day or two. “I don’t want to panic anyone,” he said. Though it is difficult to predict how long evacuation would last.