North

State of emergency declared for Yukon's Southern Lakes, Lake Laberge

"We are aware that this is a stressful time for all Yukoners, and particularly for those residents directly impacted by the current flood situation," says Minister of Community Services Richard Mostyn in a news release Friday evening.

'We are aware that this is a stressful time for all Yukoners,' says minister of community services

Water has been rising on Lake Laberge as well as Tagish, Bennett and Marsh Lakes. The territorial government declared a state of emergency on Friday evening. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

The Yukon government has declared a state of emergency for the Southern Lakes and Lake Laberge areas.

Made under the Civil Emergency Measures Act, it's meant to provide "effective response" to residents impacted by flooding in the affected region, a news release issued Friday evening says.

"We are aware that this is a stressful time for all Yukoners, and particularly for those residents directly impacted by the current flood situation," Richard Mostyn, minister of community services, said in a statement.

"We want to reassure those residents we will do everything we can to continue providing all the support we can to you in the coming weeks."

The state of emergency "expands the toolbox" the Yukon government can draw from to mitigate the impacts of the flood, it adds. That includes issuing evacuation orders.

The state of emergency will be in effect for up to 90 days, it says, and can be cancelled at any time.

Earlier, Yukon emergency officials had said the flood risk in some other parts of the territory has waned, as water levels begin to drop off.

A flood warning issued earlier for the Carmacks area was downgraded on Thursday afternoon to a "high streamflow warning." Officials say the Yukon River is still high at Carmacks, but it's been dropping steadily since last week and that's expected to continue.

Carmacks is downstream from where the Teslin River drains into the Yukon River, and officials say the Teslin River and its tributaries are now delivering less water into the Yukon River than a couple of weeks ago. 

A high water advisory for Teslin Lake was also lifted on Thursday. Officials say the lake peaked on June 24 and has since dropped by more than a metre. It's expected to drop further still.

But elsewhere — including the Southern Lakes, Whitehorse and Lake Laberge areas — residents have been watching the water rise and are preparing for trouble.

'Pretty hectic' preparations at Lake Laberge

Meanwhile, the Yukon River is still raging, and people along Lake Laberge area are still watching the water creep closer to lakeside residences.  

"It's pretty hectic," said Tamara Greek on Thursday, as she worked to protect some family property with sand bags and berms.

"There's a lot of hands on board here right now, which is nice. It's good to see the community get together like this."

'It's good to see the community get together like this,' said Tamara Greek, busy with sandbags at Lake Laberge, Yukon, on Thursday. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

Bengie Clethero, who lives in a cabin beside Lake Laberge, said she was grateful for all the help she's received from the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council, her friends and neighbours. Sandbags were piled up along the waterfront, but she was still dealing with groundwater coming up on the property.

"The crawl space in my cabin here, the water's seeping in, and I'm just mopping it out with towels and stuff," Clethero said.

"It's a little surreal, I didn't think that the water was going to get up this high."

Lake Laberge, Yukon, resident Bengie Clethero has been preparing for flooding as the lake continues to rise. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

Brad Cathers, the MLA for Lake Laberge, has also been busy in recent days filling sandbags and trying to help out other local residents.

He said on Thursday that the lake was rising about seven centimetres per day, and was not expected to peak for another couple of weeks. Cathers said a lot of effort and resources have so far been focused on the Southern Lakes region, upstream, but now things are becoming just as urgent in his area.

"People are starting to feel the strain as the waters rise, and would very much appreciate additional assistance from the Yukon government, the military, or local volunteers — anyone who's able to provide it, really," Cathers said.

'People are starting to feel the strain,' said Lake Laberge MLA Brad Cathers. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

The City of Whitehorse is also preparing for potential problems from the Yukon River, which flows right through town. 

City Fire Chief Jason Everitt said city officials are working closely with the Yukon government and Yukon Energy to monitor the risk. Yukon Energy's Whitehorse hydro dam determines how much water flows through the downtown and eventually into Lake Laberge.

"We do expect the increase in the Yukon River levels over the next little bit. We know that is likely to happen. So we're making advanced preparations to to address what that looks like," said Everitt.

"We're very much in a holding pattern."

Emergency officials in Whitehorse provide an update on their preparations on Friday morning. (Gordon Loverin/CBC)

Everitt says the city has a supply of sandbags and more are on the way, in case they're needed. 

Mayor Dan Curtis said he's concerned about people outside the city who are dealing with flooding, but insisted there's no cause for alarm in Whitehorse.

"I think we just have to recognize that there's no reason to panic just yet. We're not in an emergency and we do have a plan moving forward for anything that may come our way."   

With files from Gordon Loverin and Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada

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