On April 28, 2020, municipal and provincial officials kept a close eye on river levels after a 25-kilometre ice jam caused major flooding and forced nearly 13,000 people from their homes in the downtown. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

On April 28, 2020, municipal and provincial officials kept a close eye on river levels after a 25-kilometre ice jam caused major flooding and forced nearly 13,000 people from their homes in the downtown. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

‘How much can a person take?’ Flooding forces 13,000 from downtown Fort McMurray

25-kilometre ice jam causes flooding

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Joseph Enverga kept hoping the flooding would slow down or even stop as his apartment lights flickered on and off.

The 35-year old was prepared for an evacuation of downtown Fort McMurray, Alta., on Sunday afternoon. By dawn on Monday, he looked out his window and saw the reflection of his building in the parking lot that was covered in water.

He decided it was time to go.

“In my vehicle, I had my clothes ready, I had my documents ready,” he says. “On top of that, I had my slack line ready, I had my bag of my favourite board games ready.

“I was telling myself: this is going to be the best evacuation ever.”

Like many Fort McMurray residents, Enverga is no stranger to evacuation orders. He was forced out of his home during a raging wildfire in May 2016 that led to the evacuation of the entire city and destroyed 2,400 homes and buildings.

On Tuesday, municipal and provincial officials were keeping a close eye on river levels after a 25-kilometre ice jam caused major flooding and forced nearly 13,000 people from their homes in the downtown.

Colleen Walford, a river forecaster with Alberta Environment, said a monitoring flight just before noon Tuesday determined that the ice jam had shortened by about one kilometre and was melting.

“We have nice sunny conditions up in Fort McMurray today. We hope that continues tomorrow and it will continue to deteriorate the ice jam.”

But officials with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said it remains a critical situation.

“We are not in the home stretch yet,” Scott Davis, director of emergency management, told reporters.

Data shows the Clearwater River was still rising and the Athabasca River had only dropped by about four centimetres.

Mayor Don Scott said it has caused the worst flooding in the region in recent memory.

“This is a one-in-100-year flood,” he said. “This is something that we haven’t seen in this generation.

“And it’s actually happening during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a dual combination of issues.”

A second state of local emergency is in effect on top of one declared last month because of the pandemic.

Officials said evacuees are being put up in hotels and work camps where they can have their own space.

“We’ve gone to individual accommodations,” said Shane Schreiber, director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.

More than 6,000 people have registered at two evacuation centres and the municipality said that number is expected to grow.

Officials also said crews had to rescue more than 220 residents.

Enverga, who didn’t get an evacuation order, said he ended up getting a ride with a rescue boat after he realized his van wasn’t going to make it through the water.

“I was sad that I couldn’t take my van,” he said. “I couldn’t take my slack line, I couldn’t take my board games.”

Enverga said he was taken to an evacuation centre then went to stay with friends in another Fort McMurray neighbourhood.

Others, including Coun. Jeff Peddle and former provincial politician Brian Jean, said they had to leave their flooded homes. Jean, who lost a home in the 2016 wildfire, said his almost-finished new house was under three metres of water.

“I’m very sad. I’m sad for the people. It started with the wildfires then it went to the economy … then it went to COVID-19, which was an even bigger economy hit, and now the flood,” he said.

“How much can a person take?”

Premier Jason Kenney and Environment Minister Jason Nixon took a flight over the city Monday.

“It really is … devastating to see much of central Fort McMurray flooded just four years after the terrible fires of 2016,” Kenney said during a media briefing Tuesday.

“To imagine people who have just rebuilt their homes now struggling with those homes being flooded and the adversity of that community after four years of economic trials is just heartbreaking.”

Kenney said another 450 people have been affected by ice jams in the Fort Vermilion area.

“We will be ensuring provincial financial support,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Nixon said the government will work with Wood Buffalo to request Ottawa’s support if it’s needed.

“At this point, we are satisfied that both the province and the municipality have the situation under control,” he said.

The federal government said earlier Tuesday that it is monitoring the situation in Fort McMurray.

“While no formal requests have been made, our government is ready to help when called upon,” said an emailed statement from federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.

— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2020.

floodingFort McMurray

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Heath, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Black Press file photo
COVID claims 25 more Albertans

100-year-old among those who died

An x-ray tech demonstrates the new equipment in use. (Photo Submitted)
New diagnostic equipment now operational at Sylvan Lake AACS

In August it was announced that Stephen and Jacqueline Wuori donated $850,000 to AACS

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta adds 463 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

The central zone has 818 active cases

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Red Fraggle, one of Jim Henson Company’s Fraggle Rock characers, is shown at Time To Play Holiday Show, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, in New York. The Jim Henson Company says production has officially started in Calgary on a reboot of the original 1980s children’s puppet series, which was filmed in Toronto.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Lennihan
‘Fraggle Rock’ children’s puppet series reboot starts production in Calgary

A spokesperson says the new series will stream on Apple TV plus

Black Press file photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate fatal pedestrian collision

A 37-year-old man from Maskwacis has died in hospital as a result of his injuries.

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Blackfalds RCMP investigate fatal collision

Preliminary investigation revealed a south bound pickup truck collided with an eastbound car

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Most Read