Marooned traffic starting to flow

Travellers and trucks are once again moving along the Alaska Highway, although last week’s floods have left a trail of destruction in their wake.

UPDATED

Travellers and trucks are once again moving along the Alaska Highway, although last week’s floods have left a trail of destruction in their wake.

The road opened up around eight o’clock Monday evening, and everyone was on their way soon after that, said Penny Veitch, a cook at the Rancheria Lodge.

“We made a lot of new friends and took a big group photo of everybody. Really nice people; we had a good time.”

Travellers had been stranded for four days in Rancheria, with mudslides on one side and a washout on the other.

Veitch said that traffic is still heavy through the area, but everything at the lodge is pretty much back to normal.

A single-lane, gravel pioneer road over the washout area at Canyon Creek will allow controlled traffic flow while construction crews work on a more permanent detour route.

The Yukon government has warned travellers to expect lengthy delays.

RELATED:See more images here.

The reopening of the Alaska Highway will allow people, food and fuel to move more freely in and out of the Yukon, but much work remains to repair the damage of the flooding.

The community of Lower Post, B.C., has declared a state of emergency. Fourteen homes have been severely damaged by flooding, and at least 24 individuals, nearly a tenth of the community’s residents, are unable to return to their homes.

Parts of the Canol Road and the Nahanni Range Road remain closed, and the government has only begun to assess that damage.

The Wolverine mine mill was closed for two days because ore could not be shipped out nor supplies brought in on the Robert Campbell Highway. That highway reopened at noon on Tuesday.

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The flooding events of the last week were “unprecedented,” said Rick Janowicz with the Yukon Department of Environment.

“This was just a massive event, never seen before.”

A snowpack that was 50 per cent deeper than normal combined with a late spring and rainfall exceeding 70 millimetres to create a “perfect storm,” Janowicz said.

Stores are restocking their shelves after a run on perishable food and other items over the weekend. Real Canadian Superstore manager Roger Brown said it was interesting and surprising to see what items people chose to stock up on.

“Toilet paper made perfect sense, it’s just not something that I personally would have put at the top of my list,” he said. “By the time I thought of it, I would have been out of luck.”

Superstore teamed up with sister store Extra Foods to hire a Hercules aircraft to shuttle food from trucks stranded in Watson Lake to Whitehorse while the highway was closed. The plane made two trips on Sunday and another three on Monday.

A load of fresh produce made it to Extra Foods on the Hercules Monday, but vegetables remained scarce at Superstore until trucks arrived Tuesday afternoon.

Brown said the decision was made to fly food in because they feel a responsibility to provide food to residents.

“We recognize that our stores are very successful up here and it’s important.”

Customers will not see a price increase as a result of the cost of renting the aircraft, he said.

Travellers have cleared out of Watson Lake, where hotels and services had been overwhelmed over the weekend. Trucker Kyle Reid was stuck there for several days.

Reid was on his way to Fort McPherson to make a fuel delivery. Travellers were generally in good spirits and the town of Watson Lake was very welcoming, he said.

“They’ve had movies, and they’ve had some entertainment at the high school, and they’ve put on meals and that sort of thing to accommodate everybody and to keep everybody as informed as possible.”

A reception centre in Watson Lake set up by the government’s emergency social services staff closed its doors yesterday. The staff will continue to provide food and shelter for the 10 to 15 evacuated residents of Upper Liard who still require services, said Pat Living with Health and Social Services.

Yukon’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brendan Hanley, travelled to Watson Lake Sunday and said there were no immediate worries from a public-health perspective. He was impressed, he said, both by the extent of the damage and by the level of collaboration between government departments.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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