“We’re not relaxing on this!”
Those words were used by Brandon’s emergency management director, Brian Kayes, to end off this afternoon’s media briefing. His comment indicates the dike building phase has ended and the dike management phase has begun but it’s not time to feel comfortable yet. The crest needs to pass and it could be a prolonged peak. The water needs to drain away and Brandon is weeks away from that.
Miles of dikes – earthen, rock, super sandbags and aqua dams – have been built along the Assiniboine River and they are holding for now. The dike management phase means every inch of dike is inspected at least once an hour. Breaches, no matter how small, seepage and spillage are all cause for further action. Pumps are operating fulltime at some locations, crews give their attention 24/7 to every threat. About two feet of freeboard remains through most of the diking system so there is some wiggle room for high winds.
At the morning briefing, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst stated, “Don’t come to Brandon,” but her context wasn’t clear enough. I can imagine the phone calls she received from some of the business leaders about discouraging people to shop Brandon. This afternoon, the mayor clarified her statement by saying she meant stay away from the river but come to Brandon, shop the areas not in the flood risk zone. She prefaced her clarification by saying she really stepped in it and needed to wedge the high heel out of her mouth. Her self-effacing charm and honest community concern under duress combined with the steady, competent and cheerful Brian Kayes make Brandon lucky to have such a team to manage their crisis. The team is open, helpful, transparent, honest if they don’t know an answer and are applying skilful means to a dangerous situation. They are to be commended.
Tonight there is an eerie disquiet in the city of my birth. Over 40,000 people have seen the water snarl their streets, their lives, their commerce, their movement and their dreams. Comfort feels miles away tonight. Much closer, more ominous is the muscular surge against dike, the yearning and demanding water fulfilling its dreams.