High water levels on the Peel River near Fort McPherson, N.W.T., put cabins at risk

Water from the Peel River approached Gordon Koe’s doorstep on May 19, 2024. (Submitted by Gordon Koe)

Some cabins along the Peel River near Fort McPherson, N.W.T., are at risk because of rising water levels on the river this weekend, according to the territorial government.

A water monitoring bulletin issued Saturday afternoon stated water levels on the Peel River were rising and ice was accumulating upstream of Fort McPherson.

“Snow and ice melt have substantially increased as a result of temperatures well above zero degrees over the previous two days,” the bulletin reads.

“Out of bank flows and potential flooding are possible over the weekend around Fort McPherson if a strong ice jam forms downstream of the community.”

CBC News reached out to Fort McPherson Chief Elizabeth Wright for an interview, but was unable to reach her.

‘It kind of put a lump in my throat’

Gordon Koe told CBC News he has been seeing the rising water levels firsthand from his camp at Eight Miles, a popular fishing area about 11 kilometres south of Fort McPherson.

“Growing up here as a child it never really flooded. It’s only in the last three, four years that its really been flooding here,” he said.

Last year, flooding devastated Eight Miles.

Koe said he lost his cabin, a home he was building at the time, and his old smokehouse.

He rebuilt the smokehouse and is working on the others.

‘Yesterday when the river started coming … it kind of put a lump in my throat,” he said.

On Sunday, Koe said he woke up on at 8 a.m., to find the Peel River — normally about 30 metres back from his smokehouse — right at his front door.

At about 10 a.m., he said he decided to canoe to higher ground.

“[I’m] thinking to myself, ‘Darn, I have to go through this again?'”

When he was able to check on his cabin early on Sunday afternoon, there was about a foot of water on the ground.

Despite the rising water, Koe was optimistic.

He said since morning, water levels have been rising very slowly, and there was little ice on the Peel River — which he feels is a good sign. He is hopeful that water levels will hold and spare other cabins and his smokehouse from any more damage.

But if the water doesn’t relent, he said he knows he can handle it.

“My smokehouse may get flooded again but I can jump in the canoe and paddle away and come back another day,” Koe said on Saturday morning.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Record high snowpack in Old Crow, Yukon, CBC News

Finland: Lapland seeing high waters, unusually heavy snow, Yle News

Sweden: Swedish weather service forecasts left municipalities ill-prepared for major floods, Radio Sweden.

United Kingdom: Arctic ice melt could put 1.5 million UK properties at flooding risk: report, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Bursting ice dam in Alaska highlights risks of glacial flooding around the globe, The Associated Press

Sarah Krymalowski, CBC News

Sarah Krymalowski is a reporter with CBC North in Iqaluit. You can reach her at sarah.krymalowski@cbc.ca.

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