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State of emergency ends in Fort McPherson, N.W.T., as water levels continue to drop

The community of Fort McPherson, N.W.T., has lifted the local state of emergency as floodwaters recede and the hamlet begins repairs to damaged roads.

The hamlet of about 650 declared an emergency last Tuesday after flooding from the Peel River washed over both roads out of the community, blocking access to the airport as well as the hamlet’s source of clean drinking water.

However, water levels have been steadily dropping since late last week, giving construction crews a chance to repair the roads. Municipal services were officially back in place as of Sunday evening. 

The hamlet said in a Facebook post that LJ’s Contracting, with the help of the territorial Department of Infrastructure, has been working to repair damaged roads.

Sierra Daley, who sits on the hamlet’s council, confirmed to CBC Monday that the hamlet had ended its state of emergency.

“Right now, we are pretty much out of the woods,” she said.

She added the hamlet’s crew began working right away to empty sewage tanks and begin delivering fresh water.

“I saw lots of posts on Facebook [Sunday] about how people have never been so happy to hear the sewage trucks driving around and pumping out people,” she said.

“I think the community is pretty relieved that things seem to be improving.”

The hamlet has dealt with its fair share of challenges throughout the past week. 

Impassable roads meant no food supplies were coming in, heating fuel was inaccessible and there was no access to the garbage dump. Radio transmitters were also damaged, and tentative evacuation plans had to be put in place for infants, elders and people needing medical care. 

On top of this, residents were grieving the recent deaths of three people, which were not related to the flooding. 

Despite this, Daley said, community members were really co-operative and closely followed the directions of leadership.

“There hasn’t really been anybody complaining about anything … which has made it an easier job for our acting SAO to take charge,” she said, referring to the hamlet’s senior administrative officer. 

“We didn’t have anybody get hurt or anything like that.”

‘Damage, damage, damage’

Robert Alexie Sr., a local elder, echoed Daley’s relief that everybody was able to remain safe during the ordeal, but he warned of the challenges still ahead. 

An elder stands in front of a moose hide display in a wooden cabin.
‘No snow, and it’s swampy, and it’s hilly and it’s bumpy, you name it. Never seen this in my life,’ says Robert Alexie Sr., who has been trapping since the 1950s. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Several houses on the north end of the hamlet experienced flooding, according to Daley. 

A popular fishing spot to the south called Eight Miles was hit similarly hard, with water going up to the roofs of some cabins and even moving a few others. People also lost equipment, such as skidoos and canoes.

“I was up by the ferry landing yesterday, and it was quite a mess,” Alexie Sr. said. “Ice is all among these buildings, and two, three houses are gone … the river floated them away.

“Everybody’s alright and everybody is alive, that’s the main thing. But damage, damage, damage!”

Daley estimated thousands of dollars in losses for each camp that was impacted — and that’s not even accounting for the emotional toll.

“Usually, there’s lots of people that spend break-up at their camps, but that wasn’t even possible this year because of how high the waters came,” Daley said.

“So, it’s going to impact a lot of people’s lives.”

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