Evacuation order issued for northwest Alberta hamlet due to high water level

A mandatory evacuation order was issued on Friday afternoon by Birch Hills County for the Hamlet of Watino in northwestern Alberta after heavy rainfall this week.

Order in Watino follows several days of heavy rainfall flooding the Smoky River

Rising water level on the Smoky River has led to an evacuation order being issued for the Hamlet of Watino. (Supplied by Victor Gauthier)

A mandatory evacuation order was issued on Friday afternoon by Birch Hills County for the Hamlet of Watino and surrounding low-lying areas in northwestern Alberta after heavy rainfall this week.

Residents were told to evacuate immediately and head to the Tangent Community Hall in Birch Hills. The order was issued because of rising water levels in the Smoky River.

Water levels at Watino stabilized overnight, according to a Saturday morning post on the Birch Hills County website. The evacuation order for the hamlet and surrounding low-lying areas was set to remain in place until the structural integrity of riverbanks and county roads were stable.

About 50 people were under the order, county chief administrative officer Rick Bastow said. Most were staying with friends and family in the county.

"The volume of water is beginning to decrease — certainly that's welcomed," he said.

Bastow said although there was no direct flooding in Watino, a road further upstream had been washed out and was inaccessible.

He said as water levels recede the county will have better information as to how many banks were affected.

"We just need to make sure that as the water recedes that those banks are structurally intact and there's no imminent risk of them sliding, which would pose further problems for public safety."

Watino is located on Highway 49, around 100 kilometres northeast of Grande Prairie.

Alberta Emergency Alert issued a flood warning for the Smoky River at Watino on Friday.

A Saturday update from the province downgraded the warning to a flood watch, indicating that water levels had peaked after rising five metres on Friday and were falling with no further rises expected.

A new flood watch was also issued for the Peace River at Fort Vermilion, where water levels may rise eight metres. The peak water level is expected early to mid-next week.

A flood watch was in effect for the Wapiti River in the Peace River Basin, where a gauge registered a four-metre rise before malfunctioning on Thursday. It was expected to be fixed on Saturday.

Flood watches were also in effect for the the Pembina River downstream of Entwistle, the McLeod River from Rosevear to Whitecourt as well as the Athabasca River from Whitecourt to the Town of Athabasca.

An evacuation order was also issued Friday for the Sagitawah RV Park in Whitecourt.

With files from Mirna Djukic