By Shari Narine
KEHEWIN CREE NATION
Melting snow has created a larger issue than the recent power outage for residents on the Kehewin Cree Nation and is preventing the delivery of water.
“At this point we’re looking at, at least, 80 per cent of the homes that are definitely affected, one way or another. Probably more,” said Shannon Hambly with the Nation’s emergency response team. Hambly says she sees no immediate solution.
A local state of emergency was declared by the band at 3:30 p.m. on April 15.
Hambly said once her long driveway got ploughed, only her 4x4 truck allowed her to get out because her driveway is now nothing but mud.
Most people are leaving their vehicles parked on the road and hiking up long driveways, either covered in mud or flooded out now. And the deplorable conditions of both the driveways and interior roads are making it impossible for water trucks to make much-needed deliveries in a community that also has a boil water advisory.
Heavy snow fall started power outages on the Kehewin Cree Nation on Friday April 14 at 10 a.m. and also caused the shut-down of the main water line. ATCO worked with the Nation’s emergency response team to get power back on and the water line running again.
People evacuated their homes taking refuge with family or in hotel rooms, the cost covered by the band.
By about midnight on Saturday the main water line came on again and about noon Sunday electricity was restored to all the residences.
But heavy snow blocking roads and driveways caused the Nation to declare a local state of emergency on Saturday afternoon. And now, it is a combination of heavy snow and melting snow that has made driveways and roads impassable, said Hambly.
“We haven’t been able to deliver to all the homes that were already out of water because of our roads. The heavy water trucks will just get stuck,” she said. “The mud is getting increasingly worse.”
Even though Kehewin Cree Nation has two highways on the reserve – highway 28 which runs through the main area and highway 641 bordering the Nation – the rest of the roads are mud, she says.
Public Works is looking at bringing in backhoes and examining different methods of getting water to homes.
“The emergency response team is using a quad right now to get water and food and stuff into homes so they can manage based on a 24-hour system,” she said.
That means deliveries that happened the previous day will be assessed to see when more supplies will be needed.
“It will be a day-to-day basis because there’s still so much snow. Some of the driveways by the time I was checking back around last night, they were flooding. It’s not just the mud. As the snow’s melting, they’re flooding,” said Hambly.
Homes that maintained power were hit with access and exit issues, while homes that lost power also had to deal with food spoilage.
Hambly has high praise for the local emergency response team and ATCO personnel, saying teamwork resulted in much getting done in a timely fashion.
“Community members pitching in, people watching out for each other has been the main positive from all this,” she said
About 1,200 people live on the First Nation.