Community in Canada’s Northwest Territories updates flood evacuation plans

The Village of Fort Simpson has updated its flood evacuation plan. (Hannah Paulson/CBC News)

Village says plans are subject to change, but they provide options

The Village of Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, updated community members on evacuation plans in case of spring flooding, in a news release Tuesday afternoon.

Fort Simpson Mayor Sean Whelly was at a Fort Simpson flood planning meeting earlier Tuesday with territorial government officials. Prior to that meeting Whelly expressed frustration with what he said was a proposal to relocate flood evacuees to the Yellowknife Fieldhouse.

Yellowknife is dealing with a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the community. Whelly earlier said that a mass relocation of evacuees to the city didn’t make sense in light of the outbreak.

According to Tuesday’s news release, Fort Simpson officials now support a plan that includes camping at the village’s fire department training area, which are on higher grounds.

In an emergency, “water, wood, toilets, picnic tables, and some cooking facilities will be set up by the Emergency Measures Organization to assist those that wish to use these facilities,” the news release states.

“A limited number of tents and blankets will be available for those who do not have any camping gear.”

Anyone “absolutely needing” to leave the community will be able to register for a flight to Yellowknife, and appropriate accommodations, although, “a check stop or muster point will be setup as you leave the island to determine who immediately needs to leave.”

Gives people a choice

In an interview Tuesday afternoon after the flood evacuation plan meeting, Whelly said the latest plan gives residents options.

“That will at least give people a choice to stick around Fort Simpson and see if the high water dissipates, as would most likely be the case,” Whelly said. “In years past, we’ve seen water come very high and then within a few hours it can just all go away.”

“But the option now is that if people do need to leave the island, with the help of [the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs] … anyone needing to leave — absolutely needing to leave — will be able to go to Yellowknife, be flown over there free of charge, and be most likely put up in the hotel.”

Whelly added that flights and accommodations would be subject to availability.

According to the release, plans may still change.

CBC attempted to verify the accuracy of the town’s news release with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs. In an emailed response Jay Boast, a spokesperson with the department, said it would be “unusual” for the department to comment on the accuracy community news release.

-With files from Hannah Paulson

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