The Village of Fort Simpson entered its second weekend since declaring a state of emergency and flood evacuation with water levels reported at 15.56 metres mid-Saturday morning, according to a social media post by the municipality.
The update provided some good news for the community as residents hope to see water levels drop over the coming days. Mayor Sean Whelly said on Friday night that water levels at that time were approximately 16.2 metres and that community members were fearful of further ice breakup on the Mackenzie River.
Shane Thompson, MLA for Nahendeh and Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources, provided a message to residents via his Facebook account on Saturday. He addressed some important points involving emergency response, noting that community governments have been the lead for that response.
“Both communities (Fort Simpson and Jean Marie River) are the ones in charge,” he said. “They were the ones that declare the local state of emergency and are working with the Government of the Northwest Territories and the federal government (including the MP McLeod).”
Thompson’s post indicated that the scene, as he explained to News North in an interview on Thursday night, is one that is extremely busy with “sometimes hourly contact on top of their regular scheduled daily (emergency management operation) meetings.”
Much of his address reemphasized that leadership has been responding to his satisfaction, including the territorial government.
“I can say that cabinet has been discussing the situation and being updated regularly,” he wrote. “When the communities have requests, the GNWT has been responding. I know every request I have received from the communities, the appropriate minister have been making it a priority to deal with.”
He also said people are seeking regular information updates on Facebook, but there isn’t a lot of time to spend providing frequent updates.
“I am helping out and dealing with the day-to-day situation on the ground and don’t have time,” he said.
NNSL Media reached out to some residents on Saturday morning.
Walter Blondin, a Fort Simpson community member who lives on higher ground in the Wild Rose Acres subdivision, said he’s personally secure and as patriarch of his family, is overseeing nine people in his home after taking in his children and grandchildren. He has four bedrooms in an 800-by-400-foot house.
“We are pretty heavily impacted because we know for sure one house is heavily damaged from the water and with sewer back up,” said Blondin, a resident of Fort Simpson for 27 years.
“The community is also impacted because of the shortage of water and services. Our store is cut off. The medical facility is cut off.”
He also remains concerned about the health of his grandchildren and community.
“The greatest impact is hygiene and water,” he said. “The grandchildren have to be cleaned every day and that is the scary part of it. Sickness could spread or anything could happen.”
Still, Blondin said there have been bright spots.
He said community leadership “has done a phenomenal job” in its response and he’s been very pleased with businesses and residents stepping up to help one another during a difficult time.
“We are all doing our share to minimize the impact and keep each other safe,” he said, noting that he has been to the village’s “tent city” to donate tents, stoves and loads of wood to keep people warm.
Blondin and community leaders have expressed gratitude toward surrounding communities for their help in offering temporary accommodations and airlifting goods and supplies into the community.
Terry Andre, general manager of Yellowknife’s Walmart, said that her store has tried to meet needs expressed by both Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson over the last few days. On Friday, the store shipped 10,000 lbs. of food and supplies on seven pallets.
“I would say that yesterday had been super humbling to drop off items at Buffalo (Airways) and seeing (planes) leave to help people that have shopped with us and myself at the Walmart Yellowknife for years,” she said.
Andre said the store is planning to ship by truck camping-related items that will include things like tents, pillow cases and propane.
Sandy Macpherson, manager of business development and head of charter services with Buffalo Airways, was planning a fourth shipment of food and supplies from Yellowknife Direct Charge Co-op to Fort Simpson mid-Saturday afternoon.
Chris Reynolds, president of Air Tindi, said his company has been involved in providing assistance since last weekend and has cut cargo costs and offered a few free flights of cargo shipments over the last week.
He has also provided “quite a few evacuations” for medical reasons, as well as helping people get people out of the community to shelter in Fort Smith and Hay River.
“It has definitely been busy and we have been trying to do what we can as it has been stressful,” he said, adding he remains open to providing assistance as it is needed.
“Hour to hour we are watching what the river does,” Reynolds said.