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Hay River prepares for spring breakup

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Hay River (Apr 29/02) - A veteran river watcher is not expecting any major flooding in Hay River during break-up this year.

"At present, I'm not concerned with what I see," says W.R. (Red) McBryan, who has been monitoring the Hay River each spring for nearly 50 years.

The former mayor offers several reasons for his optimism.

He points out there is not much ice on the Chinchaga River, which flows into the Hay River.

"A major flood would have a hell of a lot of water coming at us," he explains. "We don't have that in the rivers."

There is enough snow on the ground to possibly cause some flooding in the river, but he notes temperatures are remaining relatively low and Environment Canada is predicting a cool spring. "That's a saviour for us down here."

McBryan says the situation would only change with warmer temperatures, both day and night.

Therefore, he cautions it is very difficult to say exactly what's going to happen.

There may be some high water, McBryan says. "Not necessarily a flood."

Several dozen residents gathered at Hay River Town Hall April 20 to hear an update on preparations for the annual break-up.

Among them was Coun. Robert Bouchard, the town's liaison with the Emergency Measures Organization.

"All we're doing is making sure we're prepared," says Bouchard, noting numerous organizations are involved.

Like McBryan, he points out there is not a lot of water in the rivers of northern Alberta and British Columbia.

And he also notes warm weather followed by cooler temperatures is to the town's advantage, as water content in the snow is being evaporated. "It's basically wait and see," Bouchard says, adding the weather will warm up. "Eventually it's got to come."

The councillor says people in town have various opinions on when breakup will occur this year. "It's normally the first week in May, but it has been as late as the middle of May."