As of 6 p.m., the North Klondike Highway will reopen after Yukon’s department of Highway and Public Works crews repaired a washout at the Clear Creek bridge, according to a Facebook post by the department.
Per the post, a travel advisory has been issued given the situation may rapidly change in response to rain and flooding.
Travellers are being asked to travel with caution and bring a 72-hour emergency kit for the road to prepare for possible delays and road closures.
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Forty-five people living on low-lying properties in Yukon communities have left their homes in response to flooding in the Klondike region, which is currently only accessible by air from Whitehorse due to highway washouts, according to the territory’s emergency coordination centre.
“Crews from multiple government branches are working to mitigate issues in our region. However, this situation is challenging our local resources,” reads a May 24 update from the emergency coordination centre.
In a May 25 interview, information officer Julia Duchesne said extremely high water on the Klondike River is causing extremely high-water levels within the Klondike Valley from Henderson Corner to the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers around Dawson City.
An incident management team has been set up on the ground to direct operations such as filling sandbags and putting sandbags in place to protect property as needed. Three sandbagging stations are in action.
“Citizens, like Dawson residents and throughout the valley, they’re really pulling together,” Duchesne said.
A flood warning continues for the region.
A more than 100-kilometre stretch of the North Klondike Highway between Stewart Crossing and the Dempster Highway cutoff has been shut down to deal with a washout at the Clear Creek bridge. No estimated timeline for reopening is available.
A portion of the Dempster Highway had been closed due to washouts but has since reopened to one lane.
The highway connecting Dawson City to the airport and subdivisions has been kept open. Duchesne said there are no concerns about airport operations.
“We’re keeping a very close eye on the North Klondike Highway,” Duchesne said.
“We have Highways and Public Works engineers on site regularly assessing and monitoring the integrity of the highway and the bridges there to make sure that that quarter remains open.”
The North Klondike Highway is the main artery between Whitehorse and Dawson City.
The Yukon Party is calling on the Yukon government to work with federal counterparts and United States officials to speed up the reopening of the Canada-United States border crossing to provide an alternate route to the Klondike region by road.
In a May 25 release, the Official Opposition indicated much-needed supplies such as groceries, sandbags and equipment can’t flow as freely to areas impacted by flooding as a result of the North Klondike Highway closure cutting off road access.
The Little Gold-Poker Creek border crossing west of Dawson is set to reopen on June 1 for the season. The border provides secondary access to the south through Alaska during the summer months.
“By opening the border as soon as possible, goods could still be trucked into Dawson through Alaska,” Porter Creek North MLA Geraldine Van Bibber said in the release.
“This would also allow folks who need to travel to Whitehorse for medical appointments to still make their appointments without having to reschedule.”
In an email, Duchesne said the Yukon government is in touch with the Canada Border Services Agency, and the border reopening date has not budged.
“Dawson and the Klondike Valley have adequate supplies of response materials,” Duchesne said.
“[The] Yukon government has planning in place to ensure that supplies can get to Dawson as needed. Options beyond highways include air and barge transport. We will work closely with our partners at City of Dawson and Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin [First Nation] to put those plans into action as needed.”
In a tweet, Premier Ranj Pillai hinted the territorial government would have details on flood-relief support for those impacted when flooding subsides and the response scales back.
“We want to be clear that flooding is ongoing throughout the Klondike Valley subdivisions. That flooding is driven by spring snowmelt and rain,” Duchesne said.
“[Water levels] might go down a little bit, but then they might come back up because it all depends on how the snow is melting at high elevations and also where the spring rain is falling.”
Duchesne noted that Dawson City residents are being asked to conserve water, given that the high-water situation is putting stress on the local wastewater treatment plant.
Klondike Valley residents are being asked to be prepared for water levels to go up and down over the next week or two, Duchesne said. That preparation includes having a 72-hour emergency preparedness kit, moving items to higher ground, sandbagging property, making an emergency plan for the household including pets and livestock and being ready to evacuate.
High-streamflow advisories are in place for the Dawson, Ross River and Stewart River regions.
The lower Yukon River is well-above average for annual peak freshet flow. The river peaked on May 24 and is going down, but will remain high over the coming days, according to the May 25 advisory.
The Pelly River peaked on May 22 and is receding, the May 25 advisory states. While water levels remain high, it’s considered within the normal range for this time of year.
Per the May 25 advisory, the Stewart River is seeing high streamflows from the headwaters to the mouth at the Yukon River confluence. The river remains about 40 centimetres below the 2022 peak, which occurred much later and saw a greater snowpack. Water levels are expected to climb and stay high for at least the next week.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org