Most Fort Vermilion evacuees allowed to go home as flood risk subsides

The majority of the hundreds of people evacuated from their Fort Vermilion homes due to rising river levels are being allowed to return.

Evacuation order still applies to residents living north, east of hamlet

Ice jams on the Peace River near Fort Vermilion. (Ari/CanWestAir)

The majority of the hundreds of people evacuated from their Fort Vermilion homes due to rising river levels are being allowed to return.

Levels on the Peace River dropped significantly overnight, says Byron Peters, who is with the emergency co-ordination centre in Mackenzie County, about 660 kilometres nort of Edmonton.

"We're quite confident that the situation is improving," Peters said. "It could always jam again. We're quite hopeful that it won't and if it does, it would be far enough downstream that we believe Fort Vermilion should be OK."

The county issued a state of local emergency and mandatory evacuation order for the hamlet of Fort Vermilion on Sunday as water in the ice-choked Peace River was rising. 

The evacuation order was lifted at 10:40 a.m. Monday for the approximately 300 residents living west of the hamlet's water treatment plant. Peters said there was no overland flooding in that area.

Damage being assessed

The evacuation order remains in place for residents living to the north and the east of the water treatment plant, Peters said. 

The county wants to ensure roads are safe and passable, he said.

"We've confirmed there was water in and around homes and in yards and over local roads," Peters said. "We're not sure the extent of the damage or if or how bad homes have been damaged."

He's unsure how long the residents to the north, known as Buttertown, and the east will have to wait to return to their homes, but municipal staff and utility advisors are assessing the situation, he said.

Situation holding in Woodlands County

Ice jams in the Athabasca River prompted officials in Woodlands County, about 180 kilometres north of Edmonton, to state of local emergency as well. 

Ten homes in the Whitecourt area were evacuated as were six homes in the Fort Assiniboine area. 

The situation is holding, said Woodlands County CAO Luc Mercier.

"We do have a potential that we're watching on the west side of the affected area in Whitecourt," Mercier said. 

Eight homes could be at risk and the residents have been notified that they could be evacuated, he said.