Flooding creates weekend mayhem in Yukon and N.W.T.
Residents of several communities in Yukon, B.C. and N.W.T. moved as a precaution
Some Whitehorse stores are slowly being restocked with the help of a Hercules aircraft. Homes in Upper Liard, Yukon, Lower Post, B.C., and Nahanni Butte, N.W.T. have been evacuated this weekend due to flood threats.
Over the weekend, many store shelves across Yukon were emptied out after a run on perishable foods.
Trucks weren’t able to get through with supplies because of highway closures all over the territory due to flooding, washouts and mudslides.
On Sunday, a First Air Hercules plane flew in more food to two grocery stores in Whitehorse. Loblaws, which owns Extra Foods and the Real Canadian Super Store, leased the privately-owned plane to fly perishables from trucks stranded outside Watson Lake, Yukon, to Whitehorse.
The shelves have since been partially restocked in those stores.
Mark Wykes, who owns and operates the Whitehorse Extra Foods, promised the costs of using the Hercules aircraft will not be passed on to consumers.
"I can imagine it is a huge price tag to do that, but in dealing with Loblaws they are quite happy to foot the bill, so it’s not going to cost our customers a cent more for a jug of milk," said Wykes.
Wykes said they will keep using the Hercules until all their trucks in Watson Lake have been unloaded.
Nahanni Butte, Upper Liard, Lower Post homes evacuated
Homes in Nahanni Butte, N.W.T., have been evacuated this weekend due to rising water levels, affecting about 100 people.
Earl Blacklock with the N.W.T. Department of Transportation said most of the residents were moved to Fort Simpson, N.W.T., as a precaution, because the water was threatening the town's power plant.
Bob Kelly, communications manager with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation, said they shut the plant down early Saturday evening.
"The water was starting to get very close to the plant, lapping at the doors, so as a precaution we shut things down to ensure any damage to the plant would be minimized, but also to ensure that power was not left on in residences that were being evacuated," he said.
Kelly said it's a very unusual situation. He said once the water levels recede they will go back to assess the damage and restore power to the town. He said they don't know when they will be able to get back to the community.
Residents of Nahanni Butte are being housed temporarily at the community recreation centre in Fort Simpson. Northwestel also cut off phone and internet service to the community.
The community's chief, Fred Tesou, said he was told that government officials would travel to the community Monday afternoon to assess the damage. They would also lend satellite phones to those who voluntarily stayed behind.
The Lafferty and Ndulee ferries are both out due to high water levels and debris in the water. The Lafferty ferry crosses the Liard River and provides access to the South for residents of Fort Simpson, N.W.T. The Ndulee ferry crosses the Mackenzie River north of Fort Simpson and provides access to the south for residents of Wrigley, N.W.T.
Kelly said they are also monitoring water levels in Fort Liard, N.W.T., but there is no imminent threat. The Liard River breached dikes in Yukon and several homes in Upper Liard, Yukon, were evacuated Saturday.
About 24 residents in Lower Post, in northern B.C., left their homes voluntarily early Sunday morning. A total of 77 people chose to remain in the community.
About 115 people live in the community of Nahanni Butte.
Crews hope to have Alaska Highway open Monday afternoon
Allan Nixon, Yukon's deputy minister of highways, said they expect to have the Alaska Highway open today between Teslin and Watson Lake.
He said they will allow commercial vehicles through first – especially ones which carry food and fuel.
The Campbell Highway north of Watson Lake remains closed, as do the south Canol Trail and Nahanni Range Road.
The Alaska Highway between Haines Junction and Destruction Bay has been open since Sunday. The South Klondike Highway between Carcross and the Fraser border crossing between Yukon and B.C. are both open to two-lane traffic.
Yukon's 1972 flood record beat
Rick Janowicz, a hydrologist with the Yukon Government, said there was more than 70 millimetres of rain leading up to the flood, on top of a snow pack that was 150 per cent above normal.
The water reached one metre above the previous flood record, which was set in 1972. The peak happened overnight and is now receding, but it will take days to go back to normal levels.
The government’s temporary emergency reception centre in Watson Lake has been busy with more than 170 people there since Sunday.
Dr. Brendan Hanley is Yukon's chief medical health officer.
"No immediate worries from a public health point of view… We're concerned with, do people have access to clean water, to shelter, to sanitation, to food and all of that," said Hanley.
Officials say it is too early to assess the flood damage.