As water rises, so do volunteer contributions

Keep sandbagging. In the flooded Southern Lakes region, the worst is yet to come. The water is now predicted to rise past previous peak estimates by…

Keep sandbagging. In the flooded Southern Lakes region, the worst is yet to come.

The water is now predicted to rise past previous peak estimates by five centimetres.

Tuesday morning, the Emergency Measures Organization forecast peak water levels to reach 657.297 in the first week of August, five centimetres higher than the past week’s forecast.

“We’re trying to anticipate how much rain we’re getting in the mountains toward Atlin and it’s not a black-and-white thing,” said EMO spokesperson Doug Caldwell.

“Weather is not a perfect science.”

Marsh Lake will rise another 10 centimetres before reaching its peak.

A standing voluntary evacuation notice remains for Army Beach, but no official evacuation order has been issued.

People are asked to use their own judgment in deciding whether to stay or go.

“Start thinking about leaving now,” said Caldwell. “Put it into your plans. We’re trying to give people as much notice as possible.”

About 113,000 sandbags have been filled and laid in the area and more are coming everyday.

Some fatigue is setting in among property owners, but volunteers are holding up nicely, said Caldwell.

“The volunteers are taking breaks from time to time, but you can’t do that for people fighting for their property,” he said. “We can’t force them to take a break.

“Some of them are past 50 and working hard many hours a day. It takes its toll. They’ve been doing it for a long time.”

One volunteer had lost his Palm Pilot while bagging sand and believes it was dropped into a bag.

“It’s a tribute to how busy these people are that he wouldn’t notice it fell in; that’s dedication,” said Caldwell.

About 32 teenagers from the Whitehorse Cadet Summer Training Centre were filling sandbags Tuesday. Over four days, several platoons of cadets have filled about 1,600 bags.

This volunteer service fills part of their citizenship training, said Staff Cadet Sgt. Stefan Strangman.

“They’re putting something back into the community,” he said. “They knew exactly where the bags were going and they were excited to help out.”

In Carcross, residents aren’t scrambling as in other communities. In fact, the area just received its first sandbags on Monday, said EMO volunteer co-ordinator Linda Pringle.

“We’re not having near the problems as they are by Tagish and Marsh lakes,” she said. “That’s not to say we’re happy about this, but it’s manageable right now.”

Bennett Lake beach has disappeared and the walkway access built this summer is under water, but “nobody’s in crisis,” added Pringle.

The Carcross visitor’s centre is pumping water out of its basement, and the Koolseen Centre could be closed if flooding gets worse.

High water threatens a train bridge, forcing The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad to suspend service until further notice.

Passengers holding reservations will be bused to and from Carcross, said the company.

Once the water has receded an engineer will inspect the bridge. Based on that inspection, the company will decide whether to resume service.

Takhini Transport has been taking volunteers to Marsh Lake for sandbagging duty.

A full schedule of pick-up and drop-off times is available on the Yukon government’s website.

Norma Lee Craig, the company’s operations manager, lives at Marsh Lake.

“I saw the problems firsthand and there’s limited parking at the day-use area so we wanted to bring as many people on the bus as possible,” said Craig.

Only four people used the service Tuesday. The service will run daily “as long as it’s needed,” she added.