Hundreds of campers stranded by flood waters near Slave Lake
Highway 88 is washed out, cutting off access to Marten Beach hamlet and campground
Between 200 and 250 campers were stranded Friday by floods in the Marten Beach campground on the northeast shore of Lesser Slave Lake.
The hamlet and campground of Marten Beach, about 300 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, have been under an evacuation order since Thursday due to flooding caused by heavy rainfall.
The Municipal District of Lesser Slave River hopes to reopen the road to Marten Beach at some point Saturday, contingent on weather conditions.
Highway 88 has been washed out in three places, cutting off road access to the area, said Lesser Slave River Reeve Murray Kerik.
The campers who chose to stay are safe and on high ground, he said, but aren't able to leave.
"There's about 200 to 250 campers that are still out there and they have no option, they can't get out right now," said Kerik. "They are stranded in there."
A local firefighter is on site with them, and the campground can still be accessed by boat or helicopter if needed, Kerik told CBC in an interview.
Alberta Parks is also in touch with the campers, said spokesperson Scott Lundy and officials are working on a a plan to get them back to safety.
"While these campers are not in imminent danger, emergency responders and air evacuation teams are ready to assist should a medical emergency occur," said Lundy, in a statement.
Online reservations for the Marten River Campground, and Lily Creek and Marten River group camping areas are closed until further notice. Existing bookings will be refunded.
Some residents of the Marten Beach hamlet also chose to stay because they were on high ground, Kerik said.
"They're alright and we're in contact," he said.
The area received more than seven inches of rain Thursday, according to the municipal district's website.
Evacuees are asked to report to a reception centre set up at the office of the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River.
Water levels receded overnight, said Kerik, but are still higher than the road. Emergency crews are clearing debris from the Marten River to prevent damage to the local bridge.
"We'll be checking the integrity of the road and the bridge as the water goes down," Kerik said.
But with rain in the forecast for Saturday, the community is bracing for more flooding.
"Unfortunately, we're getting used to it," he said. "Every time it floods now, it seems like it gets worse. It gets deeper and comes faster."
In recent years, the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River unsuccessfully applied for provincial funding to mitigate the impacts of flooding, Kerik said.
The district needs money to study environmental factors that may have led to worse flooding in recent years, and to put mitigation strategies in place, such as building a diversion channel to carry excess water away.
A similar strategy has been working well for the town of Slave Lake, Kerik said.
"We know what works. It's just a matter of getting support."