Communities that are racing rising water with sandbag walls say they need urgent help.
Yukoners from outside the area wanting to volunteer can head to a sandbag station to help fill bags that residents can use to construct floodwalls.
“Just go out and fill sandbags,” said Kat Hallett, a communications spokesperson with the department of community services.
“It’s super helpful for the property owners who are working to protect their homes, because it really cuts the work time in half. Instead of having to go and fill sandbags for hours, and then load them in their vehicles, and transport them to their properties, and then unload the sandbags they can just go and pick up sandbags that are already filled,” she said.
As of July 8 there were nine sandbag stations in the southern lakes region, including Marsh Lake, Lake Laberge, Jackfish Bay, Carcross and Tagish. Local organizations on the ground are doing further coordination of efforts, but volunteers can arrive at any time during the day. Precise locations can be found online at Yukon.ca/floods. As of Thursday, the sites were:
- Tagish Community Centre
- Tagish Cemetery
- Carcross Tagish First Nation Capital Yard
- Deep Creek
- Jackfish Bay
- Hootalinqua Volunteer Fire Department
- McClintock Road South & Taylor Road junction
- Nolan Road
- Marsh Lake Community Centre
“The stations are accessible 24/7 for people to go and work at. You don’t need to be registered or anything in advance to go help and you don’t need to check in with anyone when you arrive,” said Hallett.
Volunteers are instructed to bring their own shovel, water, bug spray and sunscreen. Teams of two — with one to hold open a bag and another to shovel – are an efficient way to fill the bags. Sandbags, sand and zip ties are being provided at the site.
Volunteers are asked to be COVID-19 aware when working.
When filling bags, it’s important to fill them around 60 per cent full and leave room when zip tying in order to allow room for the sand to settle and be stacked.
“That’s important,” said Hallett. “if they’re too full, it’s hard to stack them into berms or walls or anything to protect properties.”
Other ways to help
While sandbag filling and hauling are much needed, there are other ways to help for those who are not able to contribute labour.
Ashley Fewer, who coordinates the Yukon Helpers Network, has been working to connect homeowners in need with helpers who want to volunteer. She said many businesses have also stepped forward to contribute. She said the need for sandbags is urgent, but there are other ways to help out as well.
“We have people who are in dire need, it’s quite an emergency situation,” said Fewer.
For those who can’t do the heavy lifting, Fewer suggests having a designated zip tyer in a mixed group who can finish off filled up bags.
She said other ideas to help include spreading the word online and among friends, offering ridesharing to sandbag sites and helping out volunteers by providing snacks, water, sunscreen and lending shovels.
Financially, the Canadian Red Cross is providing support to those affected by floods but is currently not accepting donations for Yukon specific efforts.
Fewer has established a GoFundMe in order to provide financial relief to any families evacuated due to floods. Fewer said the fundraiser is meant to provide additional funds for incidentals that the Red Cross can’t provide.
“So basically, the fundraiser is to help with what the government and what the Red Cross can’t cover. They’re limited on what they can offer each family,” she said.
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org