‘No flooding whatsoever’

NNSL file photo
This year, the breakup of the Hay River occurred with no flooding. In this picture from April 7, the ice road had just been closed across the river to the Old Village of the Hay River Reserve.

In a repeat of what has become the norm in recent years, the spring breakup of the Hay River turned out to be a non-event.

The ice left the river with no flooding, unlike what has occasionally happened in the past.

“No flooding whatsoever,” said Fire Chief Ross Potter, who is also the town’s director of protective services. “I’m extremely happy about that.”

Each spring, he oversees the preparations just in case there is flooding.

Potter said there wasn’t enough snow and water in the basin feeding the Hay River to cause any flooding.

The watershed for the Hay River begins west of High Level, Alta.

Potter explained that the amount of water in the river system depends an awful lot on the weather.

There was a fast warm-up in the south and a slower warm-up up in the Hay River area, but there was no rain to introduce more water into the system.

The breakup officially occurred at the beginning of last week.

“I called it about 6 o’clock on May 8, a Monday morning,” said Potter, who noted that was a little bit on the late side.

A breakup is deemed to have occurred when both the East Channel and the West Channel of the Hay River are open all the way to Great Slave Lake.

The breakup took place without a dramatic rush of broken ice towards the lake, as has most often happened in the past.

“This year was pretty much a melt-out and then the ice just slid out into the lake,” said Potter. “Just because there was no water to push it through.”

Such a melt-out has happened before, he noted. “It’s not common, but it has happened before. This year was just totally weird all the way around.”

The last flooding during breakup took place in 2009.

However, Potter said the town will continue to prepare for flooding during future breakups.

“We aren’t going to let our guard down,” he said. “An ounce of prevention is an awful lot better than having things go sour and not being prepared for it. We will continue to prepare for it as though it’s going to be and hope for the best.”

Potter noted there seems to be a nine-to-11-year cycle for flooding based on past events.

–Paul Bickford