Evacuation orders have been lifted in most areas of Fort McMurray, after water levels receded significantly in the Lower Townsite.
At 8 p.m. Friday, residents in all areas but Draper were allowed to begin returning home, including:
- Taiga Nova
- MacDonald Island
- Lower Townsite
- Ptarmigan Court
Draper is still under the mandatory evacuation order, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said.
“My thanks to the staff at the Regional Emergency Coordination Centre, especially our director of emergency management, Scott Davis and chief administrative officer Jamie Doyle, who have worked around the clock to get our evacuated residents back home,” Mayor Don Scott in a release Friday evening.
“Along with my council colleagues, we want evacuees back in their residences as quickly and safely as possible and I want to thank people for their patience knowing how anxious everyone has been to get home.
“I’d also like to thank all our partner agencies who have helped people return and let anyone know that if their home is unsafe to stay in, please contact the Red Cross.”
Davis stressed that while people will have access to their homes, they may not be able to live in them just yet.
Fixing the power
The mayor said about 2,500 customers are still without power and about 2,049 are without gas. ATCO crews are working around the clock to restore services, but a firm timeline on when they would be restored was not provided.
Scott said the backbone of the power grid would likely be restored by Sunday, but that doesn’t mean power would be fully restored to houses and businesses.
“Even though people are getting access to the downtown… there are still some challenges with utilities,” the mayor said.
A boil water advisory also remains in effect. The water is not safe to drink, Davis stressed.
More than 13,000 people were forced from their homes after an ice jam on the Athabasca River caused flooding throughout the downtown.
Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon said the water level on the Athabasca River has dropped by about 7.6 metres. The water on the Clearwater River has dropped about 1-1.5 metres since it peaked on Sunday, according to Jason Nixon.
The ice jam on the Athabasca River — which was once 25 kilometres long earlier this week — was about nine kilometres long, Nixon said in an update early Friday afternoon.
Nixon said aerial surveillance of the rivers shows the ice jam has started to melt at the mouth of the Clearwater River. While the water level is expected to fluctuate over the next few days, Nixon said no further flooding is expected in Fort McMurray as the ice jam moves down stream.
Scott said the water levels were going down “rapidly” Friday and officials believe further progress will be made throughout the day.
There were about 10 pumps working from Prairie Loop to Waterways to remove water, the mayor said.
Officials with the RMWB said they are working on assessing the damage and initial assessments suggest about 1,230 structures are affected by the flood.
On Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney announced emergency evacuation funding for all residents forced to flee due to flooding in northern Alberta. Starting at noon Monday, eligible residents can apply online for a one-time cash payment of $1,250 for adults and $500 for those under 18.
While acknowledging it’s been a difficult week for evacuees, Nixon assured them “there is assistance coming.” He said beyond the premier’s announcement of emergency funding for all evacuees, details on a disaster recovery program will be released “soon.”
Officials said they are working with the RCMP on the re-entry Friday afternoon. Everyone returning home is asked to contact their insurance provider.