Flooding forces evacuations from Southern Lakes

Flooding in the Southern Lakes region forced a Tagish Lake woman from her home and several others have left their Army Beach residences at Marsh Lake…

Flooding in the Southern Lakes region forced a Tagish Lake woman from her home and several others have left their Army Beach residences at Marsh Lake over the weekend.

About 300 volunteers were in the Southern Lakes region Saturday and Sunday helping to fill and lay roughly 33,000 sandbags in an attempt to stop more evacuations, said Emergency Measures Organization spokesperson Doug Caldwell.

“Most put in a good 10-hour day and only really took breaks when the trucks were dumping sand,” he said.

Water levels in the Southern Lakes region have reached 657,173 metres, or about 18 centimetres more than the previous record set in 1981.

Officials are forecasting another six-centimetre rise in the next seven to 10 days, depending on weather conditions.

The forecast for the peak water level of the Marsh, Tagish and Bennett lakes remains at .25 metres over the previous record of 656.994 metres.

Concrete barriers were also placed on some recreation and residential properties to reinforce efforts to stop expected severe wave action, which could worsen property flooding and cause structural damage.

A foot of water covers the Army Beach Road, the main transport route for trucks hauling sand.

The heavy traffic has “chewed up” the road and residents should prepare for an evacuation if the road becomes impassable, said Caldwell.

Several people have already left their Army Beach residences and are staying with friends in the area, said EMO volunteer co-ordinator Mike Larsen.

A tent headquarters has been set up to co-ordinate sandbagging efforts and feed volunteers, he added.

An official evacuation order has not been issued for any residential areas, but an advisory for evacuation preparation remains.

Because only property has been threatened, no town site has declared an emergency.

“Typically, emergencies declarations are made when lives are in danger,” said Caldwell. “Because of where we’re at, people’s lives aren’t in danger, but their properties might be in peril.”

An elderly woman was evacuated from her home behind the Tagish Lake service station to a local motel after her septic tank was flooded, said Tagish Lake EMO volunteer co-ordinator Denis Bouchard.

An older couple living near the water is also preparing for an evacuation in case their septic tank floods, he added.

About 10 properties are threatened by rising water.

About 20 people filled and laid 2,500 sandbags in Tagish over the weekend, but water percolating through ground and flooding properties has in some cases made bagging useless, said Bouchard.

The White Pass and Yukon Route train service could be stopped if flooding covers or damages the train bridge near Carcross, said company president Gary Danielson. A decision will be made later today after crews have inspected the bridge.

Takhini Transport will be offering rides this week to people wanting to volunteer their time sandbagging in the Southern Lakes region, said Caldwell. A schedule will be made available early this week.

The Health and Social Services department, which issued a boil advisory last week, said only residents using private wells and lake or river water need to boil water.

Yukon Electric and Northwestel were in the Southern Lakes region inspecting equipment and infrastructure to ensure people won’t lose power or telephone service if conditions worsen.