Original Published 12:36 May 10, 2022

By Caitrin Pilkington, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

In Hay River, as the water rises, concern is growing among occupants of downtown property on the river. That includes the Ptarmigan Inn, currently booked solid with evacuees. 

A staff member at the Northwest Territories town’s central hotel, who did not wish to be identified while discussing operational matters, said employees have been told there is a 50-50 chance the hotel will need to be evacuated.

“Water is up to Capital Drive,” the employee said, referring to a downtown riverside street. “Everybody’s worried.”

The staff member said if required, guests at the hotel would move en-masse to the Hay River Community Centre across the street, which is the current support centre for evacuees. 

An evacuation alert, asking residents to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, remains in place for all riverfront areas, including Capital Drive.

On Tuesday morning, the Town of Hay River said crews would spend time removing snow in the downtown area and working to clear the local drainage system.

Rick Groenewegen, who owns Alexandra Apartments on Capital Drive, said he is less worried about his own property as it is situated on higher ground.

“But for the hotel, which is lower,” said Groenewegen, “the water is very close to the surface of the street. Storm drains near the liquor store and in front of Aurora College are full and backfilling.” 

Groenewegen described clearing snow on a stretch of road on Sunday that, by Monday afternoon, had become a pool of water. He said the same thing is happening at Gaetz Drive.

“If it’s gonna go, it’s gonna go there,” he said, pointing to an area in front of the liquor store and in front of the Ptarmigan Inn on Capital Drive. 

“The hotel is at risk. If the water breaches, it does not have far to go. Other properties are somewhat more elevated. But water doesn’t have to come up a whole lot higher for that ice to start coming across the street.”

Other downtown property managers are monitoring the area closely. Clayton Angalalik, who works for Rowe’s, was on-site looking out over the Hay River.

“No one was expecting this,” he said. “Everyone’s really worried.”

This item reprinted with permission from Cabin Radio, Yellowknife, NorthWest Territories