Here's what Fort Simpson residents are saying about this year's spring breakup
Water levels had reached 14.4 metres around 2:40 p.m.
Bob Norwegian didn't plan on leaving his home on the island in Fort Simpson Saturday afternoon, even though officials were urging residents to evacuate amid rising water levels on the Mackenzie River.
"I've seen this kind of ice flow before so I'm not too excited about this entire exercise," he said, just after the community issued its island evacuation order and declared a state of local emergency.
According to updates on the community's website, water levels hit 14.4 metres around 2:40 p.m.
Norwegian said he lives on "big hump" where most other homes are located. He's two houses north of the power corporation. "The last 300 years it's never flooded right where I stand."
In the old days, he said, the ice flow used to crack, pop, and make a thundering sound.
Now, it doesn't do that anymore.
"The ice is not really hard, it's like a big slushy avalanche kind of thing, hardly any noise too, just like a slush flowing. 'Shhhhh', just like that."
WATCH | Water and ice flow along the Mackenzie River near Fort Simpson:
However, he said he hasn't seen water levels quite this high before.
"My wife went out to the Northern store to grab water and stuff like that. People are just crazily shopping in there, everybody was just elbow to elbow with what they could grab."
Muaz Hassan, owner of the Unity store in Fort Simpson, said a lot of people came throughout the morning but that everyone was "really quiet and calm" and they weren't rushing.
"It was just preparedness from the community and getting ready in case anything happens, that we'll have enough water and enough snacks. That's why it's packed," he said.
In years past, Hassan said people might leave the community during the breakup to go to Yellowknife. But this year — COVID-19 cases in the capital city have deterred people.
"That's the reason why the village decided to set up a camp area and prepare it," he said, adding there is no concern about having enough food and water. "They feel safe to be in the community here, that's what's going on. I don't think anyone is going to Yellowknife."
Hassan said, however, that there should be a better plan in place in the future.
"This is an every year concern so I believe we should come up with a plan, a sustainable plan that way we don't have to go through the process every time," he said. "[So] we don't need to rush to get tents, we don't need to rush to get sleeping bags."
With files from Anna Desmarais