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Spring brings the return of River Breakup season

(Fort McMurray, AB – April 1, 2019) - Spring is here and each year the ice in the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers breaks up, jams and rises, creating a flood hazard around the region’s Lower Townsite and Waterways.

Though the river may appear to be free of ice, River Breakup will not be officially declared until the threat of flooding from ice jams further downriver is no longer present.

“Annually we encourage residents to educate themselves on River Breakup in the region,” says Chris Graham, Assistant Deputy Chief of Emergency Management at the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. “Emergency preparedness is important during River Breakup and we would recommend the public take the appropriate steps to be ready for an emergency situation.”

Residents can prepare by creating their individual or family 72-hour emergency kits and know their evacuation route in case of an emergency due to flooding.

River banks are extremely dangerous at this time of year and should be avoided, both before River Breakup is declared and after. Residents are also reminded that stopping a vehicle on the Athabasca bridge to watch is not permitted. 

As a safety precaution, Silin Forest Road at the Water Treatment Plant will be closed to the public until May 20, 2019.

To view the River Breakup livestream or for more information about what you can do to prepare yourself and your family, please visit www.rmwb.ca/riverbreakup.



Definition of River Breakup:

The province conducts daily aerial surveys when River Breakup is approaching. In consultation with the province, the Municipality will declare when River Breakup has taken place. River Breakup is declared when ice jams on the Athabasca River no longer pose any risk to the Municipality.

Ice breakup near the Athabasca bridge may indicate that River Breakup is approaching, but it does not mean that it has been declared; the risk of flooding can still come from ice jams far upstream (south) and, to a lesser extent, downstream (north).


FLOOD RECOVERY: Information and resources