3 homes under evacuation order after landslides, no other buildings at risk, Whitehorse mayor says

The City of Whitehorse issued evacuation orders for three homes it considers at risk after two more landslides took place in the city over the weekend.

City issues evacuation orders after 2 new slides occurred over weekend

The area around Jeckell Street and 6th Avenue has been fenced off because of a landslide that occurred over the weekend. The city says residents are safe but advised them to take precautions. (Chris Windeyer/ CBC)

The City of Whitehorse issued orders of evacuation for three homes it considers at risk after two more landslides over the weekend.

Mayor Laura Cabott said in a Monday afternoon news conference at city hall that no other downtown buildings or homes are currently at risk.

She said two of the homes now under evacuation orders were vacant and that she believes the residents of the third home have complied with the order and left.

Each landslide — one took place overnight Friday and the other on Saturday around 10:40 a.m. — saw about 3,000 to 4,000 cubic metres of debris fall from the escarpment, according to Tracy Allen, the city's director of operations.

Saturday morning's landslides occurred above Cliffside Park, near Jeckell Street, in the city's downtown. The park has been cordoned off since May 2021, when a previous landslide occurred.

The landslide saw debris fall from the escarpment, which runs all along the west side of downtown, into the park, spilling over onto 6th Avenue, near a house. 

WATCH | Footage from the Yukon Geological Survey shows a landslide sending debris into Cliffside Park and onto 6th Avenue:

"It's the groundwater that gets into the ground and is coming out of the escarpment that is causing the slides," said Cabott.

She added the city will be taking the equipment out of the park – although it was already closed, the mayor said some residents were using it – and relocating it. Cabott suggested people go to the Jim Light Park on 3rd Avenue instead.

The latest landslides come after the city started cleaning up another one that occurred late last month.

That landslide was the result of about 3,000 to 4,000 cubic metres of sand, silt and clay that fell from the escarpment across Robert Service Way and the Millennium Trail, and into the Yukon River.

The city said the current sliding is not caused by the recent construction of a sheet pile wall along Robert Service Way. The wall is being built to mitigate the damage from any future landslide in the area and allow officials to reopen the main thoroughfare into downtown, which has been closed for weeks.

The trail near Wood Street in downtown Whitehorse after a landslide took place on May 28, 2022. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Staff who had been working on the sheet pile wall were diverted on Saturday to help with the new landslides. Cabott said crews are expected to return to building the wall alongside Robert Service Way on Tuesday.

Allen said it should take another seven or eight days to build the wall.

"We're hoping within the next two weeks, pending no other shutdowns, we'll be able to at least open it up under controlled traffic," said Allen.

The other landslide this past weekend took place between Wood and Jarvis streets. Cabott said the city cordoned off more areas near the escarpment as a result of the weekend's slides.

Continuing to monitor escarpment

Allen said the city's engineers and consultants continue to monitor the entire escarpment every day with the use of drones and visual inspections. They expect to see more slides over the next week or two as groundwater continues to seep out of the escarpment.

The city provided emergency preparedness information to residents in about 40 or 50 homes after this weekend's landslides, just in case residents get caught in their homes and can't leave for a while.

The information packages include advice on having enough supplies to last 72 hours as well as signs that residents can put in their windows that read either HELP or OK.

Anyone who witnesses a landslide is asked to report it to the city at 867-667-2111.

Cabott also urged residents to sign up for the Whitehorse Alert app.

She said the notification system alerts users of any emergency, including flooding or fire, in the city.

"[It's] a really important measure that you can take to keep yourself informed and safe," she said.

Written by Michel Proulx with files from Elyn Jones and Chris Windeyer