Rising water prompts state of local emergency and mandatory evacuations in Wood Buffalo

Mandatory evacuations and a secondary state of local emergency have been declared in Wood Buffalo on Sunday after rising water levels created a high risk of flash flooding.

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in northern Alberta declared a secondary State of Local Emergency because of high water levels along the Athabasca, Snye and Clearwater Rivers. The emergency applies to all of Fort McMurray, Draper, and the lower townsite and Clearwater areas in their municipality.

Wood Buffalo also issued a mandatory evacuation notice for Draper, an unincorporated community of around 215 people around 12 km south of Fort McMurray. The municipality also issued a mandatory evacuation for the entire Taiga Nova Eco-Industrial Park, and a voluntary evacuation was issued for the Ptarmigan Trailer Park in the Waterways area of Fort McMurray

The notices directed residents to the Oil Sands Discovery Centre in Fort McMurray for more information on accommodations and support available to them.

The evacuations came after the municipality warned communities on Saturday that Draper, as well as the Lower Townsite and Waterways areas in Wood Buffalo, were at a high risk for flash flooding. This comes as ice in the Athabasca River is currently breaking, raising water to extremely high levels.

The municipality asked the public to keep away from the banks of the Athabasca River. Flooding is occurring along Clearwater Drive on Sunday, the municipality said. It advised people to avoid the area and to not travel along the road or in downtown Fort McMurray, if possible.

The municipality also said residents in Waterways and the Lower Townsite should prepare a 72-hour emergency kit, as the risk of flooding for downtown, Waterways and Draper remains high.

Evacuees should still follow physical distancing and current health guidelines while evacuating.

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