Lesser Slave Lake crews working to contain flood damage to infrastructure

Flooding washed out roads, knocked out power and triggered voluntary evacuations Tuesday after heavy rain in the Slave Lake area.

'We know we have lots of infrastructure damage,' Lesser Slave River reeve says

A section of Highway 88 on the way to Marten Beach collapsed Tuesday after a culvert washed out. (MD of Lesser Slave River)

Flooding washed out roads, knocked out power and triggered voluntary evacuations Tuesday after heavy rain in the Slave Lake area.

Highway 2, west out of Slave Lake, partially re-opened Tuesday after the Mooney Creek bridge was closed by flooding. 

Highway 88 was also closed Tuesday when a culvert washed out at kilometre 16 at 10:45 a.m.

"It washed the culvert right out from under the highway and now the asphalt has caved into the hole," Reeve Murray Kerik said. "It's going to be a pretty major repair."

He expects the highway to be closed for an extended period of time once the water level drops.

Kerik spent Tuesday afternoon driving along Highway 2 on the south shore of Lesser Slave Lake surveying the flood threat and the work his crews were doing to mitigate the damage.

"We've got (back) hoes sitting on just about every bridge, pulling off timber that floats down the creeks to keep it from piling up and taking our bridges out," Kerik said.

"So far it's working. We haven't lost a bridge yet. The roads? I'm not so sure on some our roads yet."

End not in sight

Kerik said Tuesday evening that he thinks the worst is over. 

"It looks like our water is starting to recede," he said. 

Kerik said he hopes the water level will go down enough soon so the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River can assess the damage caused by the storm. 

"We know we have lots of infrastructure damage we just don't know how much," said Kerik. "We won't know until the water goes down enough that we can do an assessment."

Highway 88 leads to Marten Beach, a hamlet on the northeast shore of Lesser Slave Lake.

Joy McGregor owns a cabin in the community and is worried it will be flooded.

Her family lost "everything" in 2011 when a wildfire swept through the Slave Lake area, and she is hopes the flooding spares a green metal table and chair set.

"It's the last of the stuff that I have from when I was a kid," said McGregor.

Heavy rainfall and log jams on local creeks are causing some roads to flood in the M.D. of Lesser Slave River #124. (M.D. of Lesser Slave River)

There are about 70 cabins at Marten Beach, 30 of which are occupied year-round while the others are seasonal, she said.

Alberta Emergency Alert issued two warnings Tuesday related to the rising water levels in the Town of Slave Lake and the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River, which includes Marten Beach. 

A local state of emergency was declared in the M.D. of Lesser Slave River around 2 a.m. Tuesday as conditions deteriorated. The state of emergency was still in effect overnight. 

"We knew it was coming," Kerik said Tuesday morning. "It just kept coming and coming, harder and harder, and the water was getting deeper and deeper until, 'Whoa, we got a problem.' " 

It has been raining hard in the region since Saturday. There were multiple power outages in the area due to high winds and downed trees.

The state of local emergency is mostly related to two areas within the district where water levels are too high, Kerik said.

Eating Creek and Marten Beach both flooded rapidly overnight and a critical emergency alert was issued by the province around 2 a.m.

Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service personnel were knocking on doors in Marten Beach, encouraging residents to consider leaving the low-lying areas of the hamlet.

In Marten River, the water level is rising due to heavy rainfall and log jams are triggering localized flooding. Residents there are also being told to prepare for a possible evacuation.

About 150 people live in the two affected areas, Kerik said.

While the evacuations are voluntary, most of the people who faced imminent flooding have already left their homes, Kerik said.

"By the sounds of it, today should be our last bad day," Kerik said. "Hopefully [water levels] will start to go down fairly quickly and we'll get back to normal."

In the town of Slave Lake, flood levels crested by late Tuesday afternoon, said Mayor Tyler Warman.

For much of the day the sewer system was at capacity with "manholes basically overflowing," he said.

The town used its 12 vacuum trucks in the heavily-flooded areas sucking up the water to take pressure off the system, he said.

The Town of Slave Lake has a dozen vacuum trucks in neighbourhoods sucking up the water, said Mayor Tyler Warman. (James Roy)