Fort Simpson, N.W.T., under 48-hour precautionary flood notice, ice shifting near Jean Marie River

There are signs that river breakup may be imminent in Fort Simpson, according to the village of Fort Simpson. Meanwhile, Jean Marie Creek has started to shift and a 24-hour flood watch has begun in Jean Marie River.

Public notice issued after some movement of Liard and Mackenzie rivers on Monday morning

The Liard and Mackenzie rivers pictured here on Monday morning. Some movement was reported by the ice crossing near Fort Simpson, N.W.T., but as of noon on Monday both rivers were stationary. (Submitted by Jon Antoine)

The village of Fort Simpson has issued a 48-hour precautionary flood warning for residents that live on the island. The notice was triggered after movement by the ice crossing early Monday morning. 

"Breakup is imminent and residents should be prepared for potential flooding," reads the public notice. Residents can find updates on the village's page, where there is further information about the community's flood plan and current water levels.

An earlier notice reported that the Liard river had moved by the ice-crossing, which caused the Mackenzie river to move as well. As of noon on Monday, both rivers were stationary after traveling about 100 meters. 

At the time of the notice, water levels reached just over 7 meters high. According to the community's flood procedures, 24-hour monitoring isn't triggered until water reaches 12.5 meters, with business and school closures beginning at 14.0 meters. 

A photo captured by airplane of the Liard river near Fort Simpson around 4:30pm on Monday. (Submitted by Goose Flying Service)

Ice has also started to shift on the Jean Marie Creek, upstream of Fort Simpson, according to a notice from the Jean Marie River First Nation. "There is visible open water from the road at the end of the airport," the notice said, noting that there is not yet any ice movement on the Mackenzie River at that spot. 

A 24-hour flood watch is now in effect in Jean Marie River. "Residents are advised to be prepared should an evacuation alert be necessary."

The Jean Marie River First Nation has promised updates on its Facebook page

'It's got a life of its own'

Bob Norwegian lives along the riverbank on the island in Fort Simpson. He's an Elder and knowledge holder from the community who has been watching the rivers and how they behave for years.

He said it's hard to predict when exactly the rivers will break and what risk it may pose to the community. 

"It's got a life of its own and you gotta bend with it," he told CBC. 

It's also unclear how cold weather and snowfall sweeping the region will affect spring breakup, but it doesn't appear to be a negative development. 

Roger Pilling, a retired hydrologist who is currently working with the Emergency Measures Organization (EMO), said that the situation is so far developing as it would in previous years.

Typically, breakup will begin in Fort Simpson around the first week of May, but that can vary year to year, especially during cooler or warmer years. While there has been snowfall in the area over the past few days, it's likely to melt slowly with the sun expected to come out on Monday afternoon. 

"I don't think the cold weather is going to hurt us," said Pilling, but he acknowledged that it's hard to know for sure as they are many variables at play. 

As of right now, it's difficult to predict what will happen in the coming days, but Pilling said residents should remain prepared and vigilant. 


Hannah Paulson


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