The Lemphers’ home, entirely surrounded by rising water, is seen from above at Shallow Bay on July 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

The Lemphers’ home, entirely surrounded by rising water, is seen from above at Shallow Bay on July 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

LETTER: Leaving our home in Shallow Bay, Yukon

Shallow Bay which is now an ocean of water, is serene and it is simply beautiful outside.

My exhausted son Justin Lemphers and his incredible partner Brigitte Parker, finally got to go home to their place in Whitehorse for one night at least and be together again for the first time, since June 30. Justin has spent every night and day here since June 30. What a truly amazing son and man he is.

He first saw this place when he was 7-years-old. We wondered why he wasn’t making friends with kids at school in Whitehorse, when we first moved here from the Northwest Territories. He said every time he made friends, we would move which was so profound, and so true. We promised him we would never, ever move again and we never did.

We have moved all important personal things from our house that were irreplaceable, to our refuge at our close friend’s and neighbour’s place two days ago. Things like family albums, special pictures, essential records etc. It forces you into a stark personal evaluation when you have to decide what is important and what is not after having lived in the same place for 38 years. Is the T.V. and stereo important and all the things which go with them important-NO; are all the books in the library important- NO they can be replaced except for only the most special ones; are the family pictures and albums important -YES most definitely; is the fridge, stove, the fancy appliances in the kitchen etc. important- NO they can be replaced.

We have been together as partners in life for 49 years. There is a lot of STUFF you accumulate in your lives. Most of it in the final analysis is not important. What makes the things in your life special is the people and memories, and relationships you have had with these people. It is how you treat people. It is about decency and caring. It is about doing the right thing.

We have had many, many people visit us here at our home at Shallow Bay over the last 38 years. People from Australia, England, Yukon, from all over the rest of Canada, France, Spain, Japan, Russia, Denmark, U.S.A., etc. We always end up sitting on the deck and gazing out over Shallow Bay or Màn Tl’àt as the Ta’an people named it eons ago. We have had many, many gatherings at this place over the last four decades. Weddings, birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgiving dinners, New Years’ parties and just folks visiting. We once had the Russian Minister of Education and his K.G.B. interpreter here for dinner and played the Rachmaninoff for them. This composer was scorned by many Russian elite for his political ideology. They sat on the deck looking at Shallow Bay and listened in forbidden rapture.

We are back at the house tonight (July 12) with our youngest grandson to monitor the six sump pumps we have running to keep the waters at bay and our crawl space from flooding. We are doing this in four-hour shifts. Florian just adjusted the sump (2:30 a.m.) in the watershed area to make sure it was working properly. Denali just started another trash pump outside. We are checking the pumps every 20 minutes in a four-hour rotation between the three of us. Denali just came in the door after checking the pumps outside. It is 5:05 a.m. It is hard to sleep. We are tired. It is hard to sleep. Damn.

There is an inner incredible berm wall which was built with the help of well over 300 volunteers, that have helped us out at various times over the last week. We can never thank these old friends and now new friends, all Yukoners one and all and perhaps even some from other countries, who happened to be visiting here, who have come out to help us sandbag. People came out and filled sandbags, tied sandbags, carried sandbags, and put sandbags into place, sometimes to incredible music playing in unison.

Ordinary people brought out food and goodies for everybody. We estimate the number of bags put in place at well over 20,000. The berm walls stretch right around the house. Then of course there are the small Yukon businesses who have contributed food or employees or their technical skills to help us out. You folks are amazing! Solvest Inc., Subway, Blackbird Bakery, Rob Jensen Metro Drilling Inc. We want to publicly state our appreciation of the efforts of two amazing Y.T.G. operational staff who have been instrumental in keeping our spirits going. Dan Adamson is a local Ta’an citizen who just lives across the bay from us. Florian personally worked with both his grandma Irene Adamson and his aunt, Shirley Adamson over the years we have lived here. We know Dan better because well, he lives out here. He is the kid who got on the same school bus as our kids. He would drive his little mini-bike down to our neighbour’s place and play Nintendo.

The second is Conner Lee, another multi-generation Yukoner, who took over from Dan. Both these people have been outstanding examples of dedicated, action oriented, problem solving people. They are not into bureaucratic crap, as some of the other “officials ” we have encountered on this journey in the last couple of weeks. If they can get ways to make things work, they do it.

The level of the water on all sides of our house is now the same as the lake level. Our green house is flooded to just slightly above the floor level. We canoe or wear hip waders to get into our house from part way up our driveway.

Time has blurred into an ongoing stream of thoughts and images concentrated, streamed and spread over many days. Wait, did that happen just two days ago or was it three, maybe five? Do we have enough sand? Where are the sandbags at? Do we have enough ties? Is there food and water and refreshments for the people coming to help? The list goes on and on! And without Brigitte Parker, Angie Charlebois and Tracey Erman, the organization of all these logistics of the sandbagging, would have been truly impossible! Three dedicated, extremely skilled and loving human beings who stepped up to organize the amazing volunteer effort out here!! Thank you, Brigitte, Angie and Tracey with all our hearts! They even organized volunteers to go to other properties, even after we stopped our sandbagging. How frigging amazing is that!

The sandbag wall encircling our house is superb. Even the military who came through here said it would have been exactly what they would have done. The problem is the ground water seeping up from below. No amount of sandbagging will stop that. We now are at the stage of getting our sumps automated as much as possible. The water continues to seep from below. Time is short and the water rises.

We have cried of course and probably will many times over.

We simply can’t believe, how much has changed over the last week in the water levels at Shallow Bay. The aerial shots document this change.

We purchased the original house which was a log cabin built on this exact spot 38 years ago. It was built from salvaged logs from the Whitehorse fire in the early 1960’s. We have modified the original cabin over the years through superinsulation, construction of an addition, and an incredible greenhouse. We have over the years made it a handicapped accessible home with even a wheel chair accessible shower area, which we just completed in Nov. 2020. We have done this to make sure that we can be here for as long as we are alive, and leave a legacy to our sons and grandsons and their families.

As of the afternoon of July 13, 2021 we were given an official evacuation order for house by the Yukon Emergency Coordination Centre.

We don’t know whether the efforts to save the house will be successful. We don’t know when this flood will end. It will not be from lack of effort, but from the inexorable forces of nature that we do lose it. But what we will never lose is the incredible memories of the many, many people who have been here over last four decades and the many ordinary people who stepped up in the last two weeks, in an incredible demonstration of caring that we can never really properly acknowledge.


With our love and gratitude to our wonderful family and friends and the many, many just regular folks who came to help; WE SINCERELY THANK YOU.

Andrea & Florian Lemphers

Shallow Bay, Yukon

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