Hub prepares for ice breakup

The ice roads across the Hay River to the Hay River Reserve closed last week.

As every year around this time, the town if getting ready for the spring breakup of the Hay River.

Fire Chief Ross Potter, who is also the director of protective services with the Town of Hay River, sees positive signs for the breakup.

“I’m cautiously optimistic, I’ll put it that way, that it’ll be a good year,” he told The Hub. “From my understanding, there isn’t a whole bunch of snow down south. The snowfall in the Hay River area was probably better than two times the normal amount of snowfall, but that’s all localized.”

Potter explained that what can create flooding in Hay River is the water coming from down south and how the thaw goes.

There was significant flooding on Vale Island in 2008 and minor flooding in 2010.

Since 2010, there has been no flooding.

However, those recent uneventful breakups don’t mean the town is cutting back on preparations, which are done through the Emergency Measures Organizations with many other groups in the community.

“We are taking it extremely seriously and that’s why we start doing the preparedness in March before anything starts to happen,” said Potter. “So we’re keeping an eye on things and keeping people informed.”

Town residents can also keep an eye on the river through cameras at West Channel Bridge, Pine Point Bridge, Paradise Valley and above Alexandra Falls.

The images, which renew every 15 minutes, can be found on the town’s website.

There have been some upgrades to three of the stations, except Paradise Valley.

“We were using some older technology that wasn’t very fast and we’ve put in new turbo hubs in the locations,” said Potter of the new cellular technology. “So connectivity is better for us and we’re able to increase the number of pictures being taken and that kind of thing.”

However, he noted that not a whole lot will happen in 15 minutes, so the images will remain at that interval unless there is some reason to lower the interval or even stream views of the river.

Information packages are also being delivered to residents of Vale Island.

“We do it every year,” said Potter. “We deliver a package that gives you all kinds of information about emergency preparedness, what to do in case of floods, what to do with your animals.”

In addition, an information meeting is planned for April 19 at the Fire Hall.

Potter said he will give an update at the meeting on what he’s seen in surveys of the Hay River, which will begin this week with trips south into Alberta.

Those trips should give him a rough idea of when breakup is actually going to be happening in Hay River.

“Typically, breakup happens somewhere between the 25th of April to approximately May the 8th,” he said, adding that this year he suspects it will be happening closer to the end of April, rather than in May.

Over the past half-dozen years, breakup has taken place on April 25 in 2011, May 5 in 2012, May 14 in 2013, May 10 in 2014, April 29 in 2015, and May 2 in 2016.

Last week, the ice bridges across the Hay River between the town and the Hay River Reserve were closed for the season. Those ice roads are controlled by K’atlodeeche First Nation.