River breaks up quietly

The final stage of break-up happened on Sunday, and it was like nothing happened at all.
But really, this year’s break-up has been rather uneventful, so far.
“It’s been a relatively calm year compared to past years,” said Kevin Wallington, town councillor and spokesperson. “I think the biggest thing is that we’ve got a really qualified team staying on top of things and making sure that things are functioning properly. That’s really helped in the awareness factor.”


Water was able to move well as a result of the buildup. It created enough force to break the ice in town and push on through.
As of Monday night, waters were flowing well right up to Great Slave Lake at the West Channel, which alleviated a lot of pressure built up by ice.
Early Monday morning, much of the ice had pushed its way through the East Channel, but not enough to declare smooth sailing.
“We’re still going to continue to monitor the levels,” said Wallington, “but given what we’ve seen so far, we’re pretty optimistic that it will go through, hopefully without any great incident. But we’ll remain vigilant with the team that is on river watch to make sure we’re monitoring it right to the end.”
This year’s river break-up arrived almost one month later than usual, according to town residents and the river watch team.
Less precipitation, warmer water and warm weather have contributed to making the breaking of ice that much easier this year.
A different tune than the ominous one echoing from weeks before. The longer winter, and a final cold snap towards the end of April marked a significant difference from previous years.
“The flow of water is significantly less than it has been in the past,” said Wallington.
“At high times we’d see levels rise between 1,000 and 1,200 (cubic meters per second) coming over the Alexandra Falls. If we looked online right now it’s between three to 400.”
For some, this year’s break-up is anti-climactic.
“There were some really thick measurements in the ice this year,” said Wallington. “That was cause for concern because when there’s not enough pressure to move that, then it’s going to channel one way. If you have a lot of water and ice coming down both channels, there’s the potential for flooding in one particular area, so we’re fortunate that we didn’t have a lot of ice and water.”
Doctor Faye Hicks of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Alberta continued to study break-up this year as part of the largest river-ice research study group in Canada.
The Hay River is easily accessible, has a lot of historical data and has fluctuated from year to year.
The research team has worked several years at creating a model for predicting any potential disaster.
“Even as a team we’re constantly learning new things,” said Wallington.
“As more people study the river and see the potential impact it has, I’m sure that the scientist will be able to monitor how different things can affect it from the amount of water coming this way to the temperature changes.”
“Obviously we just want to protect the people of Hay River, their property and the infrastructure and the community,” said Wallington, “so this is a good opportunity to grow as a team and learn.”