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It could be days before Hay River flood evacuees are allowed to return

Saturday, May 14th 2022, 9:39 am - Several roads still underwater, no access to others as floodwaters recede.

Residents who left Hay River due to the floods could wait days before they are allowed to return to their homes and businesses.

"We're asking people to be patient," Mayor Kandis Jameson said on Friday.

"As soon as it is safe to do so, we will start bringing people back in, but right now there is still a hard close on that highway to essential [workers] only."

The community of about 3,800 residents has been under an evacuation order since Wednesday night, when floodwaters began to pour in to New Town.

In an update Friday afternoon, the town said it will provide a detailed update within two days. Until then, only recovery workers are being allowed in.

Hay River flooding/Emma Grunwald/CBC Floodwaters have receded in parts of Hay River, leaving behind chunks of ice and debris, and covering the roads in silt. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

Residents who aren't directly involved with the disaster response should not return yet, the update said.

"It is critical that residents understand that their presence here is detrimental to our recovery effort," it said.

No injuries or deaths related to the flooding have been reported, said Glenn Smith, Hay River's senior administrative officer.

THE STATE OF HAY RIVER

South of Hay River, Paradise Gardens still has no road access, though power has been tentatively restored.

There is still no road access to Vale Island, and the airport is still only available for emergency services. The town says they won't be able to access the area until "significant infrastructure repairs" are done.

There is no power in Old Town, and emergency staff are working to rescue the residents who are still on the island.

Around New Town, there is also no power and little road access to Castaways Cottages and Campground and 2 Seasons Adventures.

Hay River flooding/Emma Grunwald/CBC On the evening of May 12, water still sat on some roads in Hay River. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

Several roads are still underwater throughout the 553 area. There are no sewer services or power along Cranberry and Saskatoon Drive, and the lift station there is not operating. A second lift station in the 533 area is only partially working.

Residents won't be allowed back into this area until sewer services are online again. The same rule applies to the area between McRorie Road and the West Channel bridge, which includes the downtown area. Riverview Drive and Gaetz Drive are impassible, and emergency crews are working to pump water out of the ravine.

There is still power in that area.

South of McRorie Road, all services are online, the town said.

Water levels at the Hay River gauge, just upstream from town, have dropped five metres since Thursday, the N.W.T. Environment and Natural Resources Department said in its Water Monitoring Bulletin on Friday.

About five-to-10 millimetres of precipitation is in the forecast near Hay River this weekend, but it's not expected to add to the flooding, said the bulletin.

'IT'S STILL DANGEROUS'

Kirk Thibault is working in Hay River right now.

He said the water is receding, but the town isn't ready for everyone to return.

Hay River flooding checkpoint/Emma Grunwald/CBC Access to the town of Hay River is being monitored and restricted to people who are involved with the disaster response. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

"I know people want to get back. They want to get to the channel, they want to see the damage, but you've got to give that time. We can't just get rid of that ice," he said.

"It's still dangerous, quite honestly. There's power lines down. I don't know if they're still live or not."

Jameson cautioned that receding water doesn't mean it's safe to return to town.

"There was a bit of a kerfuffle this morning ... people thought it was like a routine flood: the water recedes. Everything's fine. Everything's not fine," she said.

"We're trying to get it so that it is fine, and that it's safe for people to come back."

The town plans to issue regular updates every day at noon. After emergency workers finish assessing hazards, the town will give a rough timeline for re-entry and repairs.

This article, written by April Hudson, was originally published for CBC News.

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