Tension high as water rises in Fort Liard, holds steady in Fort Simpson

Water levels are quickly rising in Fort Liard, N.W.T., as of Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, Fort Simpson is seeing fluctuating water levels as the ice ebbs and flows, but still below the threshold for concern.

'The river is going to do what it's going to do,' says Dieter Cazon

Water is slowly rising in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., as of Tuesday afternoon, but it still remains below the threshold for concern. (Submitted by Chuck Blyth)

With a highly anticipated spring breakup underway in the Dehcho, residents in Fort Liard and Fort Simpson N.W.T., are seeing rising water. 

In Fort Liard, water is reaching the main road in the community, falling about 400 meters short from the general store. 

"It's happening so fast, it seems," said Robert Low, who works at the band office there. 

He said that some people are currently stranded at the general store and that others are being taken to safety.

The ice along the river appeared to be flowing, up until a big sheet of ice came, then Low said: "everything stopped." 

A picture from Fort Liard, N.W.T., which is currently seeing water breach the main road. (Submitted by Brittany Berreault)

Water slowly rising in Simpson

Meanwhile, in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., water levels have been fluctuating, but continue to remain under the threshold for concern. The flow of ice has stopped and started again a few times over the past day, which is typical for breakup. 

The ice reportedly stopped moving at 2:30 on Tuesday which caused water levels to slowly rise, although it changes quite rapidly. 

So far, water levels have peaked at just over 11 meters, according to the village website, which has spring breakup updates. A mandatory island-wide evacuation wouldn't be triggered until 15 meters. 

Many residents are watching the river, anxiously anticipating what may happen in the coming days. 

Dieter Cazon hasn't been able to get much sleep lately. Last year, he and his family of six were displaced from their Fort Simpson home for 189 days, living in a motel in the community. 

Now, he's watching as other communities experience flooding like Fort Simpson did last year, which has been challenging to see. 

Ultimately, Cazon said that "there's only so much preparation you can do, and then. like, the ball's not really in your court. The river is going to do what it's going to do." 

Kevin Corrigan is Fort Simpson's senior administrative officer. 

"I know everyone in town here is going to feel a lot better when the breakup is over," he said by phone Tuesday morning. "So hopefully it's soon enough we'll be able to all relax." 

"We're quietly confident that we're through the worst of it," said Corrigan, "but, you know, we can't be sure just yet, so we'll have to just wait and see."

Water levels consistent in Jean Marie River

Upstream from Fort Simpson, people in Jean Marie River are holding tight. 

A 24-hour flood watch was announced Monday, after ice had begun to shift near the community, according to a post on the community's Facebook page

Chief Nolene Hardisty of the Tthets'éhk'edélî First Nation told CBC on Tuesday afternoon that there hasn't been much movement since Monday and that water levels remain consistent.


Hannah Paulson


Hannah Paulson is a reporter from the Northwest Territories. She grew up in Gameti, Yellowknife, and Liidlii Kue.

With files from Lawrence Nayally