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Manitoba Flood – Phase Two

Reid Dickie


After a week of heavy rain and high winds, we have arrived at phase two of the 2011 “high water event” with new flooding in many parts of the province, new states of emergency and new evacuations. Deloraine, Ochre River RM and Miniota RM have all declared states of emergency due to overland flooding, Brandon and several other RMs have extended their states of emergency, Ste Rose du Lac has closed its ring dike against water from the Turtle River for the first time in 25 years, Brandon just received another three-quarters of an inch of rain in 45 minutes this morning, golf-ball size hail pounded southwestern Manitoba today, dozens of roads are closed due to new washouts, inundations stretch more than a kilometer inland from the shore of Lake Manitoba around St. Laurent, the Souris River is rising quickly and residents around much of Lake Manitoba’s south basin have been evacuated while their homes and cottages are eaten away by the rising water. The surging water and waves swamped dikes, tossed debris and even broke some cottages in half on Tuesday. Sixteen people had to be rescued by boat and one resident had to be pulled out by helicopter. Lake Manitoba is still two weeks away from its crest so many residents around the lake probably won’t be able to return to their properties this summer.

Meanwhile, our head-in-the-sand provincial government still pretends that the Portage Diversion, which today is releasing 16,000 cubic feet of water per second into Lake Manitoba, did not cause this vast lakeshore destruction. Manitoba Water Stewardship and their “minister” are claiming the natural flows from the Whitemud and Waterhen Rivers are causing the high water levels in Lake Manitoba, thus the flood is due to “natural causes.” The government’s own water flow numbers don’t support this ridiculous claim. The amount of water supplied to the lake by these two streams is small compared to the Diversion’s contribution. In fact, the outflow from Lake Manitoba is about equal to the inflow of both rivers thus cancelling out their effect. Add in the man-made Portage Diversion and you have current conditions. Politicians unable to tell the truth who spend their day covering their asses abound here now. The NDP faces an election this fall so they will go to any length to shift blame but, unlucky for them, there aren’t any other places where the blame can land except on their heads.

On that note, let me expound a bit on the events at Hoop and Holler Bend last month. First the opening of the dike was touted as essential to save hundreds of properties between Portage and Winnipeg, then it was demoted to a just-in-case measure and then they closed it after a few days when they realized people had caught on to what it was all about. In retrospect Hoop and Holler was nothing more than a desperate publicity stunt to make Selinger look like he saved the province. The puny amounts of water that flowed through the cut made an insignificant difference in the Assiniboine’s flow but caused major inconvenience for the affected properties. Part two of the Hoop and Holler plan was the compensation package where the government appears completely benevolent covering 100% of costs. What a great guy Selinger is, eh? The photo op of Charleton Selinger parting the Red River has been put on a back burner, for now.

As I write this today in Winnipeg, thunderstorms have been passing overhead with some rain and lots of wind tossing the fully-leafed elms around. The unstable weather is predicted to continue into next week over southern Manitoba. We have entered phase two of our flood and approach the heart of darkness.

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Manitoba Flood Update – May 31

Reid Dickie

We’re not out of the woods yet. Keep rubber boots handy.

As I left Brandon yesterday afternoon about 4:30 an ominous black sky promised wild weather ahead. Three miles south of Brandon on Hwy #10 (I came home via Hwy #2) it was raining hammers and nails. I had to pull over several times due to zero visibility, light the hazards and wait out the deluge. The lightning flashed and the thunder roared around me, ditches filled, fields turned into lakes again just like earlier in the spring. It was a classic prairie storm that the ancient Brandon Hills took with a small sigh and tried to absorb.

Manitoba is saturated. After last year’s wet summer and fall, the ground is unable to absorb any more moisture. Heavy rains like this one damage seeded crops and hamper seeding efforts. Every region is behind in seeding this spring. The central part of the province has 50 to 60% seeded, the eastern region between 25 and 40 percent of cereal crops are seeded and in southwestern Manitoba farmers have managed just 10% of the seeding so far this year, according to the latest crop report from Manitoba Agriculture.

Rainfall amounts varied yesterday but some were substantial: Souris received 88 mm/3.5 inches, Boissevain 64 mm/2.5 inches and Brandon 53 mm/2.25 inches. The headwaters of the Assiniboine also received heavy rains this week. Manitoba Water Stewardship is predicting an increase of at least 2 feet in the Assiniboine over the next week because of the new water.  Sioux Valley First Nation have begun new evacuations. 

Today most of the southern part of Manitoba, including the major lakes, is under a wind warning with gusts up to 90 kmh with showers in most areas. This is putting extra stress on dikes and on emergency crews in Brandon. Minor breaches are occurring but so far the pumps have managed to stay ahead of the leaks.

Wind-driven water in the lakes including Lake Manitoba, Dauphin Lake, the Shoal Lakes is washing on land and many properties are inundated. Hundreds of people around Lake Manitoba and area are now on mandatory evacuation. How much new overland flooding will result from the rain and wind will be better understood by the weekend.

Elsewhere the Grand Valley west of Brandon, though still heavy with water, hasn`t overflowed the Trans Canada Highway. Spruce Woods Provincial Park remains closed but for a few of the high ground camping spots and yurts. All aspects of the park remain off-limits or inaccessible, Hwy 5 is still closed so camping access is via Steel`s Ferry Road off Hwy 2.

Overall, we are getting exactly what we don’t need this week – more water and high winds. Depending on the flows, precipitation and winds over the next few days, the status of our flood situation  may change drastically. Stay tuned.


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Faces of the Flood

A series of photographs of people’s faces as they deal with Manitoba’s flood. Click pics to enlarge.

Matt Janzen reaches across his 5 foot dike to hand his 2 year old daughter Kaitlyn to his wife Melanie at their home just outside Elie, Manitoba Thursday.  The family have one of the lowest homes in the community and will have to leave the dike in place for a minimum of 6 weeks.  May 12, 2011. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Members of 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry help load sandbags onto helicopter slings to be transported to weak sections of the dike running along the Assiniboine River 25 km from Portage La Prairie, Man. Thursday, May 12, 2011.   (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)

Mexican migrant workers sandbag the home of Jeff Connery near Hoop and Holler Bend, Manitoba.  May 11, 2011. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

Members of 2 PPCLI  Shilo reinforce a dike on the Assiniboine River off Hwy 430, north of Oakville, MB Thursday.  May 12, 2011. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

There was no shortage of help on the James Valley Colony Wednesday as everyone, including young girls, helped pitch in to move sandbags to dikes being built around their colony. May 11, 2011. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

Flood relief workers at Breezy Point April 8, 2011 (Photograph by Stan Milosevic)

Members of the Canadian Forces carry sandbags to a home located close to the Hoop and Holler Bend near Portage La Prairie, Man, Thursday, May 12, 2011. (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)


John Bray does last minute sandbagging at his father’s home near Oakville, Manitoba Thursday morning while his dog Lucky keeps an eye out. Their home is next to the Elm River.  May 12, 2011. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press)

Friends, family and volunteers sandbag a home on Cloutier Drive near the Red River in St. Norbert. April 9, 2011 (Photograph by Stan Milosevic)

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My Favourite Flood Picture

Dave Barnes, with his dog Jack, looks over the expanse of flood water covering his property in Brandon’s east-end. Friends and volunteers helped Barnes surround his home with sandbags and protect it from the surging Assiniboine River. This poignant photo of dog and master sharing an anxious moment was taken by Brandon Sun photog Colin Corneau on May 11, 2011. I highly recommend Colin’s fascinating collection of black and white Brandon photographs here.

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Manitoba Flood Update – Friday, May 27

Reid Dickie

The flood situation in southern Manitoba is beginning to stabilize with water levels dropping. I took a drive out the re-opened Hwy #75 south of Winnipeg this week and found many fields, especially around Morris and south, still covered with standing water from recent Red River flooding. Conservative estimates say 50,000 acres of Manitoba cropland will not be seeded this year due to flooding.

“High five, Team Brandon!” That’s how Brandon mayor Shari Decter Hirst summed up local response to the flood crisis. The Assiniboine River is subsiding slowly by about 4 inches a day. That’s not expected to change very much for the next two weeks. Good news for the 1400 people still evacuated from their homes on The Flats in Brandon, they will be able to return home this weekend working to a schedule the city has drawn up. Confident that the worst is over, the mayor announced a Victory Party for Brandonites will be held July 1st at the Keystone Centre to celebrate the sense of community and accomplishment that follows the flood. A parade and fireworks will bracket the day’s festivities.

Major flooding is still threatening farms, cottages and permanent residences around Lake Manitoba and an urgent call for volunteers went out this week. High schools and the general public responded and sandbagged many properties in the Twin Beaches and Lundar Beach area. The call for volunteers was urgent because Operation Lustre, the code name for the military’s Manitoba flood fighting efforts, is over and the troops, all 1800, have left the province, formally and prematurely thanked in the legislature. Between the high lake level, the likelihood of the prevailing northwest winds whipping the waves onto the shore and lack of government back-up to protect properties there is still plenty of anxiety around the lakeshore.

I drove out to Portage la Prairie yesterday to check out the amount of water in the Portage Diversion. Though it has declined a few feet from last Friday, the Diversion is still carrying an enormous amount of water into Lake Manitoba. Rain and showers are predicted for Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan for the weekend.

As the water moves northward, Lake St. Martin is flooding out a First Nations and threatening the area. The three Shoal Lakes in the Interlake have stabilized and are expected to slowly subside over the next month. Now that the major threat has passed in the south, the flood, though still happening, is being largely ignored by the mainstream media. The provincial government has stuck its head back in the sand and is pretending the flood is over.

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Manitoba Flood Update – Monday May 23

Reid Dickie

The heavy rains that fell Saturday are making their way through the river system causing some concern and slowing the water’s decline in most places along the Assiniboine. The major concern is about inflow from the Souris and Qu’ Appelle Rivers and how it will affect dikes and drainage downstream. In Brandon, where river levels have been dropping about 6 inches a day, the decrease was minimal yesterday and today due to the rains.

Since the water diverted north from the Assiniboine into Lake Manitoba has to go somewhere, it is causing major flooding around the shores of the lake and residents are still scrambling to protect or evacuate their properties. Today many of the best cattle producers in Manitoba, six First Nations and dozens of cottages around Lake Manitoba are flooded due to dumping more water than the lake can accommodate. Lake Manitoba’s outflow at Fairford is totally unable to handle the inflow from the Diversion thus producing scenes like this.

Some Manitobans are accusing the provincial government of reckless abandon for mismanaging the flood situation then off-loading blame onto bureaucrats and generally acting like clueless idiots. The government even took out half-page newspaper ads last week to shuffle blame away from themselves. The Black Rod wrote a fine piece this week about Premier Selinger that sums up his self-inflicted and well-deserved dilemma. Read it here.

The provincial state of emergency has been extended until June 5 “to support continued flood responses around the Portage la Prairie area” as stated yesterday by Manitoba Water Stewardship. It’s the newly flooded properties around Lake Manitoba that need sandbags and the troops right now. It was reported last week that today would be the last day the military would be involved with the flood fight, just when they are needed most around the lake! Whether that is actually the case remains unknown at this time.

The provincial government will announce its compensation package for flood victims tomorrow. Also tomorrow I will have a new update on the flooding at Spruce Woods Provincial Park and the prospects for opening the park this year.

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The Flood, The Rapture and My Blogging Life

Reid Dickie

The last two weeks have been a blast for me due to unexpectedly high numbers of people checking out ReadReidRead. Starting May 9, when I blogged about Manitoba’s flood, especially around Brandon and Spruce Woods Park, my hits went from about 100 a day to averaging 800 a day today. My keywords and tags got me noticed, I showed up often on Page 1 of Google, a few times as the first entry and my blogging dream started to evolve. I learned an enormous amount about blogging this month, especially about getting people to come back. Daily updates and great pictures kept you returning. Floods are incredibly photogenic with plenty of ironic possibilities and quality pictures are easy to find. My best day since I started blogging last December was at the high point of the flood, Thursday, May 12 when I got 935 hits! Amazing!

During this, several people asked why I was so interested in Brandon? It is the city of my birth though I grew up in a small town about a hour away. I’ve always had relatives in Brandon whom I’ve visited all my life and still do. My second radio job was in Brandon when I did the all-night show on CKX from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. for 23 months in the early 1970s. The radio station no longer exists. I like Brandon though it is growing much too quickly and is under development duress. Plus it has about 100 too many stoplights!

Additionally, for my blogging needs, Brandon has two excellent media outlets. CKLQ Radio 880 carried the daily briefings of Brandon flood officials live at 10:30 and 4. Hearing the voices of the emergency coordinator and the mayor regularily in these briefings, I started to recognize the level of stress the city was under in their voices. Tension and uncertainty held them in sway for over a week but the past few days there is a more relaxed tone though they are still working hard to make the flood easier for everyone, especially the 1400 people evacuated from their homes in The Flats. I have developed great respect for Brian Kayes, the city’s emergency measures coordinator, and Brandon’s new mayor, Shari Decter Hirst. Brandon is lucky to have competent and caring people in charge of their “high water event.” The other outlet that kept me up to speed is the Brandon Sun who always have great pictures and reports from around the region.

In the past few days the irresistable opportunity of blogging about The Rapture was tossed in my lap. Ah, the stuff bloggers love to write about! Friday and yesterday plenty of people went searching for info on the end of the world, which was my most searched tag on those days resulting in my second best day ever yesterday on Saturday May 21 when I got 883 hits.

This blogger is well aware of the irony and absurdity of getting massive hits from people going in search of the end of the world, as if anyone would notice it ended unless it was reported on TV. The flood is harder to have fun with but easier to express my true feelings of concern for people and the land. I enjoyed shining a light on the mainly incompetent efforts of the province’s “flood managers” who seemed afraid to get their feet wet from the premier on down.

I am humbled and exhilerated by your response to my blog. Thank you, readers.

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Manitoba Flood Update – Saturday

Reid Dickie

This weekend we are getting what we need least – rain. About 30 to 50 mm is to fall in southern Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan, the area covered by the Assiniboine watershed. Although water levels are decreasing somewhat – 6 inches in the last 24 hours in Brandon – the dikes, already under great stress, will be tested by this new water. The Corral Centre and Paddock malls in Brandon will reopen Tuesday, May 24, God willing and the creek don’t rise.

Further east the cut in the dike at Hoop and Holler Bend was closed and Selinger Lake is slowly draining away without giving us any real clues on what’s it purpose actually was. The spin on the intentional flooding changes daily and has gone from being the saviour of the province to having a gee, maybe, we don’t need this aspect. I’m keen to see what they’ve come up with today in the latest bulletin from Manitoba Water Stewardship out later.

Yesterday the Portage Diversion was filled to the brim with water almost reaching both the bridges on the TCH that span the Diversion. Work was continuing raising and shoring up the dikes. Lake Manitoba, the recipient of the Diversion water, is experiencing flooding along its shores with people scrambling to save their properties. Dauphin Lake is spilling over farmland and cottage areas.

While there are signs of improvement and officials appear a little more relaxed, vigilance is being maintained. The wild card is this weekend’s rain – how much, where and will the dikes hold? Stay tuned.

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Brandon Flood Update Tuesday May 17

Reid Dickie

“Right now we are measuring hope and progress in inches.”

That word comes from Brandon’s ever-quotable mayor Shari Decter Hirst at this morning’s media briefing after Assiniboine River levels dropped eight inches since Monday. The flood crest is occurring now in Brandon, the dikes are holding though still monitored 24/7 and any breaches so far have been small and manageable. Though the week has been sunny and warm there is a day or two of rain coming over the weekend which could complicate the event depending on duration and amount. Otherwise, city officials are struggling to control a sewage lift plant that is experiencing leakage of river water.

The picture above is an aerial view of Kasiurak Bay off Kirkcaldy Drive north of the river. The dike along the left side is topped with an aqua dam.

The bad news today for Brandon’s 1350 evacuees is they will not be returning to their homes before the end of May and likely much longer. This also applies to business evacuated due to flood risk.

I will report on flood conditions in Brandon and Portage Wednesday evening.

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Manitoba Flood Update – Saturday, May 14, 2011 – Selinger Lake grows

Reid Dickie

As you can see in these aerial shots, the deed is done! The road is cut! The invitation to let the Assiniboine bleed has been accepted! Selinger Lake is forming quickly! Our newest lake is named after Manitoba`s premier, Duff Selinger. Now the lies are starting to emerge. The Manitoba government has been crowing about how only 150 homes (a figure the mainstream media unquestioningly re-enforces through repetition to try to make it true) will be affected by the intentional flood as opposed to 500 homes if the river does what it wants. It`s a numbers game they are playing with us. Today`s wrinkle in the game: change the wording from homes to properties (vague is better) and bump the figure to, oh say, 800 properties downstream that would flood if we don`t do it first. It still doesn`t wash.

There are nine Hutterite colonies in the “controlled” flood zone which have more than 150 houses between them. Counting the towns and farms affected, the figure reaches about 500 homes that will actually be flooded intentionally. Try not think about how much human and animal sewage, stored chemicals and other toxins the intentional flood will release into the environment in addition to the amount already mixed in with floodwaters. Warnings about health risks from floodwaters are coming out now, well water is under boil-before-use imperatives and the environment takes another hit for the politicians and the city people. The toxic slurry that will form the Assiniboine when it joins the Red in Winnipeg has to flow right through the city.

Let`s think about why they`d lie. The Red River Floodway only diverts water from the Red River which converges with the Assiniboine in downtown Winnipeg. The controls along the Assiniboine, those being Shellmouth Dam and Portage Diversion, have been exhausted by the time the water passes Portage. After that, it`s smooth sailing. There is nothing to stop the water as it rolls across the flatland to meet the Red.

Here`s the crux: Winnipeg has no defences against the Assiniboine River. Nothing. No floodway, no dike system, nothing. When an unprecedented amount of Assiniboine River water starts coming toward Winnipeg, as it is now, that`s a problem. But the optics are bad when you tell people outside the Perimeter Highway that you`re sacrificing their property for the sake of the city. So the spin doctors took over, applied their logic and everyone is saved! Except, of course, those now living in Selinger Lake. But they`ll get compensation because, as everyone knows, money solves every problem.

Here`s the latest on the numbers game: this afternoon Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said the affected area is now 180 square kilometres, down from the 225 square kilometres believed at risk. Ashton said the reduction is thanks to the work of survey crews in recent days. Umm, Steve, you just broke my BS meter.

I am so hoping I am completely wrong about this and the controlled breach is actually controlled but I have little faith in small and desperate politicians.

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Flood Update – Friday evening

       Reid Dickie

Looking and sounding very much like a nervous first time pro-side debater on the junior high debating team, Manitoba’s premier popped into supper hour tonight to blink and jaw about the hard decisions he’s making these days. Like calling in the military and opening a vein of the Assiniboine to purposely flood at least 250 square kms of farms, towns and everything else in the way. He calls this a controlled breach, necessary to prevent an uncontrolled breach which would be much worse. Really? The premier is spraying us with plenty of absolutes about this but doesn’t sound very convincing. He said he’s so darn sure of this because the decision was unanimous among officials. I hope some of these officials are engineers and hydrologists familiar with the territory and not all backroom party hacks gambling with people’s lives for a few votes and, if they can spin it, saviour status.

       The premier’s McGuffin here is he wants to control something so by applying typical political hubris, a well-honed albatross from last century, he separates Nature from everything and picks a river. Bad move. Let’s look at this thing the little man wishes to control.

The Assiniboine River is old and pissed off. It has flowed for at least 10,000 years since the glaciers melted. As the Ice Age ended, the Assiniboine was a major drainway for the meltwater. Five times deeper than it is now with the entire valley, which in places is three miles across, filled to the brim with water, it raged and surged; over the course of a few hundred miles reducing sandstone boulders the size of two-storey houses to fine red sand and depositing it in a massive delta, a tiny fraction of which we now call Spirit Sands. Prone to eating the occasional gazebo for lunch, as above, the mighty Assiniboine is a wild and vengeful river, highly resentful of its damming at Shellmouth and, with its accomplices the Qu’ Appelle, the Little Saskatchewan and the Souris, comes seeking watery justice.

        For the engineers and pols to think they have control over this river is dangerously displaced denial, hubris of the highest order and arrogance of the lowest. One misstep and the flow goes from 500 cfs (cubic feet per second) to 10,000 cfs and beyond. At that point there is no turning back, no amount of backhoes and dumptrucks full of stones can stop that, denial dies, the con side of the debate wins and the old river has revenge. Unless he gets cold feets again, the premier says the controlled breach will occur at 6 a.m. Saturday. Just a reminder, Mr. Premier, Nature bats last.

           Elsewhere, it is now starting to sink in with Brandonites how long their flood will last. The crest will be another week, peak levels persist for at least three days then the long slow process of water subsiding. Weeks from now the 1350 evacuees could still be displaced; major shopping malls could still be closed. The river is setting the timetable on this one. 

       Meanwhile the City of Brandon is holding social events for evacuees, offering them babysitting and laundry services, generally making the people they kicked out their at-risk homes feel as comfortable as possible. The caring and compassion of Mayor Shari Decter Hirst is evident in this.

I’m repeating this picture for a reason. The traffic light is on 18th Street. The river is just behind the triple tiered dike and now comes almost to the top of the second tier. There is enormous pressure from the river against the dike. If this dike along 18th wasn’t there, the street, shopping malls, school and residential area west of it would all be under eight feet of water.

 The Eighteen Street dike is the first obstacle the Assiniboine encounters as it approaches Brandon from the west. As it flows through the city, the next obstacle, besides the miles of dikes along its banks, is First Street, heavily diked and still closed. First and Eighteen are the bottlenecks that determine the flow and stress of the river as each has just one bridge to allow water to cross. Beyond First, the final obstacle before the river surges free eastward is Highway 110, a hazardous goods and heavy truck bypass from the TCH to Highway 10 that enters the city from the south. This aerial picture of Hwy 110 shows the single lane of heavy truck traffic being piloted between the dikes. Treacherous and closed for a few days earlier this week, Hwy 110 is now open to heavy trucks only. An extra long bridge allows the river to flow under the highway but there have been calls to drain the water through Brandon quicker by letting 110 flood. Since many of the heavy trucks deliver live fodder to the Maple Leaf slaughterhouse, handily located right next to the bypass, it’s unlikely 110 will be closed or sacrificed. Downstream must also be considered. One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.

       Another report late Saturday afternoon. Have a great weekend. Reid

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Spruce Woods Provincial Park Manitoba Flood Update – Friday May 13, 2011

Reid Dickie

The Assiniboine River runs through Spruce Woods Provincial Park and not only has its flooding closed the park indefinitely, Highway #5 which runs through the park is closed between Glenboro and Carberry. Water is over the road and some of the highway is washed out. The lower areas of the Spirit Sands and Marsh Lake are water covered and there is more on the way.

The lower campground at Kiche Manitou campground in Spruce Woods Park is under several feet of water and all buildings have been severely damaged. Yurts are on high ground and unaffected by flooding. Manitoba Conservation is hoping to re-open the park to camping in the lower campground by the end of July! That’s right, the end of July! Some aspects of the park are expected to open in mid-June but there is an enormous amount of water to move first. Many provincial parks are affected by flooding. Check here for updates on campground closures and delayed openings.

In Brandon, the dikes are under heavy maintenance, another foot is being added to most of the dikes as water flows are expected to increase. Saskatchewan has had heavy rains and the Qu’Appelle River, which drains into the Assiniboine at St. Lazare, MB, is swollen. Everything downstream from there is under flood watch. The final stores have closed in the Corral Centre and Paddock. The last evacuees are expected to be gone by this evening and the city waits. The crest, once thought imminent, is now predicted for the middle of next week. The Saskatchewan rains and subsequent surges are making crest predictions extremely difficult. One certainty from Manitoba Water Stewardship is to expect higher than predicted crest levels along the Assiniboine. This announcement resulted in the new endeavours to raise Brandon`s dikes by at least a foot.

At Portage the military is working to raise the Portage Diversion to move more river water into Lake Manitoba to the north. Tonight there is more water in the Portage Diversion than in the Red River Floodway around Winnipeg! The Trans Canada Highway remains open today through Grand Valley west of Brandon where the ditches are being re-enforced with stones. Structurally the two bridges that span the river at Grand Valley are sound and uncompromised by the rising river.

The proposed “controlled” breach at Hoop and Holler Bend has been delayed again, now scheduled for early Saturday. There are 122 provincial roads affected by flooding, 73 closed. There are approximately 750 municipal roads closed. Though Brandon is predicted to get a little wet snow tonight, the forecast for the Assiniboine region including its headwaters in Saskatchewan is for clear sunny days ahead with no precipitation for a week. That would help immensely!


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Manitoba Flood Update – Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reid Dickie

“Don’t Come to Brandon.”

The Assiniboine River continues to threaten cities, towns and farmland in Manitoba today. The river level at Brandon increased about 3 inches overnight and forecasters estimate the crest of the flow is near. Though the rain has stopped, the weather is quite windy, not ideal. Some good news this morning: no further rain is expected in Brandon for the rest of the week although rain is predicted further north. So far, over 1200 residents have been evacuated south of the river but people on the north side still remain in their homes. According to Brandon flood officials at their morning briefing, nearly all the sandbagging and diking is done. They now are in a state of maintenance, watching for seepage and breaches. The Brandon bypass – Hwy 110 – may be opened to piloted heavy commercial vehicles only today; First Street remains closed but Operations is hopeful it may reopen on the weekend; all lanes of 18th Street may open to traffic today. This sounds promising but the Assiniboine may have other plans.

Brandon’s mayor, Shari Decter Hirst, stated that, though everything looks calm and under control, the city is in the eye of the storm now, waiting to see what the river will do next. She emphasized that it’s not over yet so don’t get complacent. “We don’t need tourists,” the mayor said. “Don’t come to Brandon to gawk at our hardship. We don’t need anyone doing that. Brandon is in a state of emergency. Respect that.” Since most of the evacuees are lodged in Brandon hotels, there are no rooms available to stay in anyway. The Corral Centre remains closed. The mayor again commended the “everyday heroes” who have worked to save the city.

“Controlled” release set for Thursday 

Manitoba Water Stewardship announced today the “controlled” release of river water just east of Portage la Prairie is scheduled for Thursday morning at 8 a.m. The intent is to drain some of the Assiniboine into the La Salle River watershed so it will empty into the Red River south of the floodway. Residents of the 150 mostly farm homes affected by the release are evacuating today while military personnel build dikes around their properties.  The “controlled” release is preferable to an uncontrolled release which would have unpredictable results. I don’t know how big a gamble this release actually is for the government or how firm their predictability is but I am compelled to reprint poet Gary Snyder’s caution: “It is not nature-as-chaos which threatens us but the State’s presumption that it has created order.” Here is a map of the area to be intentionally flooded.

The Portage Diversion, which diverts Assiniboine water northward to Lake Manitoba, is being re-enforced, its banks heightened to accommodate greater capacity. Homes along the Diversion are on flood evacuation alert.

Other rivers and lakes

The Red River still cuts a wide swath across southern Manitoba. The Floodway is adequately protecting Winnipeg again as water levels decrease slightly. The Souris River is causing havoc in Melita with levels increasing due to excessive rain this week. Dauphin Lake is at flood stage with heavy precipitation expected there today and tomorrow adding to the woes of cottagers and farmers. Over 600 military personnel are working at various sites along the Assiniboine. The province has requested 300 more.

The waiting is underway big time now in Brandon and communities all along the Assiniboine flood plain. When will the crest arrive? Are we protected? Stay tuned for the answers to those and other watery questions. My next report comes late Wednesday evening.

Provincial government flood information here.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

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Flood Pictures #2

Rainbow and flood waters at Grand Valley on the Trans Canada Highway west of Brandon.

Aqua dam at 5th and Stickney

Sign on door of Future Shop in Corral Centre

Spray painted on a row of sandbags in a driveway in evacuated section of Brandon


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Brandon Flood Update – Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reid Dickie

        Brandon city flood officials and Mayor Shari Decter Hirst held their usual 4 p.m. flood briefing, the room still jammed with national media as interest and severity grows. Overall the river level hasn’t risen today but is not expected to remain stable. Crews are still re-enforcing dikes along the south side of the river near the evacuated area. No evacuation of the north side of the river at this time. It was affirmed this is the highest water level of the Assiniboine River “since Brandon existed.” The hazardous goods bypass, Route 110, has been closed with water over the highway. Re-diking is planned and the road may open on Wednesday, but don’t count on it. Meanwhile everybody coming in from the north enters Brandon via Kemnay, west of the city.

Officials confirmed there is at least a foot of freeboard around the diking system. Today was a windy, rainy, grey day in Brandon, the waves lapped high and hard against the dikes. It was a test. The mayor supplied four good news aspects to the situation including a conversation she had with an eight-year-old girl who was going to university. Students from Kirkcaldy School, located in the valley, start classes at Brandon University tomorrow since their school is in the flood risk zone. The university is supplying classroom space for the K to 8 students. The girl was very excited about the new experience. The mayor stressed what a relief it must be for the parents and what a great example of the community pulling together when under common distress. She also commended the volunteers for their continuing efforts.

Two stores remain open in Corral Centre, hardware and groceries. The Assiniboine is expected to crest within the next 48 hours. The best Brandon can do tonight is hope for no wind to stress the dikes further and to pray the rain stops though forecasts predict rain and/or showers until Saturday.

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Brandon Businesses Closed by Flooding – List

       A list of business closed in the risk zone has been released. These businesses have not been flooded but are closed as a precaution. The list may not be complete. If you are wondering about a business not on the list, call them for confirmation.

The following Corral Centre businesses are closed:
-Western Financial Group (relocated to the Thomas Mall Location)
-Wheat City Medical Clinic – contact the Superstore location
-MTS Connect . Services at 1535 Pacific Avenue. 571-4090.
-Westoba Credit Union – phone & Online services unaffected.
-Future Shop : repairs and online services at 2050 Currie Blvd
-Winburn Orthodontics – patients scheduled up to May 13th will be contacted
– Ultracuts
-Ashley Furniture
– Liquor Store
– Winners
– Subway
– Northside Mazda
– The North 40
– Lady of the Lake / stream n’ wood
– Kowasaki
– Old Dutch
– Memories Chapel. Moved to 547 8th st. 727-0330
-Butler Byers Insurance
-Green Spot
-Giant Car & Truck Wash
-Sobey’s Cash & Carry (wholesalers)
-Heritage Co-op gas bar 18th street North
-Twisters Ice Cream
-Patches Restaurant
-The Fuzzy Bears Daycare re-located to Grand Valley Community Church.
-Precision Toyota . temporary location on Leon’s furniture parking lot
-Trails West Motor Inn
-Rana Medical
-Redwood Motor Inn
-Mohawk on 18th
-Party Professionals. 573-8942
-CAA Manitoba. For info & road side assistance: 1-800-222-4357
-Straight Up Salon. Relocated to Advanced Hair School
-Heartland Livestock
-Brandon Radiator (calls will be forwarded)
-Morningstar Metals
-Edward Jones
– Best West Pet Foods
– Pet Value
– NRG Signs. Virden Office open
-Planet Kia. re-located to shopper mall

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Flood Update: “It’s not business as usual in Brandon.”

Reid Dickie

Brandon’s mayor, Shari Decter Hirst, ended off a news conference Monday afternoon with those words. The context was to thank businesses for committing their employees to work against the flood and to encourage Brandonites to let the workers do their work, stay away from dikes and don’t do foolish things that require rescue. The crews working against the raging Assiniboine are tired and cranky and they have police support. Respect them if you want your city saved. I thought it was a gutsy and appropriate thing to affirm. The Province of Manitoba is now in a state of emergency due to flooding, Brandon under the same duress since Sunday. Fools bedamned!

         Volunteers hoist sandbags today re-enforcing dikes along the Assiniboine River.

      Some of the businesses, notably the liquor store, are closing in the Corral Centre, Brandon’s Third Mall from the Sun, located next to the river. Stock is being relocated and staff in limbo. The closures will help decrease traffic on beleaguered 18th Street, still an open artery between north and south Brandon with one lane in either direction. Lessons in locating malls in active river valleys are being rapidly, forlornly learned in Brandon.

     Seven hundred military personel from the Joint Task Force West have been assigned to Manitoba to aid the flood fight. They will be in place by Tuesday evening, some will be assisting with Brandon diking operations. The Assiniboine River is expected to crest in Brandon over the next 72 hours, by Thursday.

        I’ll post another update Tuesday morning after the 10:30 press briefing by Brandon officials.

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