Cleanup begins in Upper Liard

Upper Liard residents have started sifting through the wreckage of June's record flood, but it will be months before they can return to their homes, if they ever do.

Upper Liard residents have started sifting through the wreckage of June’s record flood, but it will be months before they can return to their homes, if they ever do.

Al Lyon with the Yukon Housing Corporation suggested a $2-million “opening ballpark” for how much it will cost just to repair the houses, without considering the cost of replacing vehicles and personal belongings.

“Everything was soaked. Couches, cabinets, chairs, filing cabinets, flooring, underneath flooring, all of that stuff has to come out. Most of it is not salvageable, it has to go to the dump,” said Lyon.

The housing corporation has hired a Watson Lake contractor to help residents, especially the elderly, clean up the mess.

This flood was different from ones in the past because it happened so quickly, and no one had time to secure their belongings, said Lyon.

“There were several families here who had four and five feet of water running over top of the floor in their house, and everything that they had was either submerged or floating. Absolutely everything,” he said.

The flood was so high that as the river’s current moved through the subdivision, it floated cabins and lifted houses from foundations.

“You walk into a kitchen and everything, everything is dumped onto the floor as if somebody came in and ransacked the whole place,” said Lyon.

Most of the 11 families are staying with friends or family in Watson Lake. Two families continue to access emergency social assistance funding.

Health and Social Services will help the affected families find rental accommodations suitable to their needs, and will help with those additional costs, Lyon said.

The community was only just recovering from a flood in 2007. Some property owners were just finishing up repairs to their houses.

The Yukon Housing Corporation spent $450,000 fixing up houses after the 2007 flood.

Not only was this year’s flood more sudden and more extreme, the community’s response was quite different as well.

While community meetings were marked by anger in 2007, this year there was “zero anger,” Lyon said.

“It was total absolute resignation that the river had won. The feeling was, we can’t do this again, we don’t have the energy to do this again.”

The nearby community of Lower Post was also affected by last month’s flooding on the Liard River.

Because that community is in British Columbia, the Yukon government’s role in the response was limited to supporting evacuated residents while they were in Watson Lake.

A total of 22 individuals were displaced by the flooding there, and they are now all staying with friends or family in Lower Post.

The Yukon office of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada is working with the Daylu Dena Council in Lower Post in the rebuilding effort.

An assessor has visited the community over the last few weeks and is expected to present a report this week with recommendations on how to move forward.

“The community, in my estimation, has really come together and is responding well to the situation,” said Ed Kormendy with the department.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at