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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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Manitoba Flood Update – Wednesday, May 18

Reid Dickie

This is one of my favourite pictures of the thousands taken of Manitoba`s “high water event” as our flood is euphemistically known among disaster bureaucrats. The picture was taken in the Corral Centre shopping mall in Brandon, now closed and virtually deserted for over a week. How hopeful to see it still doesn`t take long for Nature to begin reclaiming the results of our folly.

The Assiniboine dropped 10 inches at Brandon since this time yesterday prompting guarded optimism among local flood officials. In some places in east Brandon, the aqua dams are being removed from the tops of the dikes as water levels subside.  The freeboard is now unnecessary.

The 1400 Brandon evacuees and the 120 local businesses, closed due to flood risk, will be waiting, at least, into June to return to normal. One north-bound lane of First Street has been reopened through the flood plain.

Downstream the Portage Diversion still carries an enormous amount of water from the Assiniboine north into Lake Manitoba. Since the Diversion has been diked and re-diked over the past few weeks in order to carry greater flow, in fact burdened with water levels it was never designed to accommodate, the dikes are now beginning to deteriorate. Tonight Manitoba Water Stewardship is deeply concerned about the integrity of the Diversion dikes and potential for widespread flooding along its route to Lake Manitoba.

Meanwhile, predictably, residents along the Lake Manitoba shore are feeling the brunt of all this new water from the Assiniboine and scrambling to evacuate or sandbag their properties. This picture is of Peter Bradley in his front yard at Twin Beach on the Lake Manitoba shore.

Beyond Portage the intentional flooding from a cut in the dike at Hoop and Holler Bend is now being spun as a just-in-case scenario, trying to justify the miniscule flows which haven`t gone above 400 cfs (cubic feet per second), a piddly amount in the Assiniboine`s massive volume. Selinger Lake continues to creep across the land aimlessly searching for some real purpose, some suggestion of reason. Maybe when it communes with Elm River and the La Salle River then seeks the wisdom of the mighty Red River, perhaps by then the piddles from Hoop and Holler Bend will finally find enlightenment.

We are chasing the water north, getting it into Hudson Bay as quick as we can. We are in control. What a delicious delusion that public officials conjure for a gullible populace!

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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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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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Flood Pictures #1 May 10, 2011

      This is an aerial view looking east down the Assiniboine Valley at Brandon. The river is flowing away from you. In the foreground the double row of spruce trees is the flooded entrance to the Brandon Experimental Farm. Perpendicular to that, water covers Grand Valley Road. Beyond that the row of spruce trees and white dikes indicate 18th Street, still open with one lane in each direction. Traffic in Brandon is tangled, to say the least. On the left of the picture, past the spruce trees is Corral Centre, the big mall that is now closed, and past that two residential areas. Right centre is the 18th Street bridge, the only outlet for the river. On the right side of the picture and off into the distance, the Assiniboine is creating its floodplain.

      This is a picture of Grand Valley with the Assiniboine flowing left to right. The Trans Canada Highway crosses the river here, about 15 kms west of Brandon. Today there is mounting concern that when the crest arrives, within the next 2 days, the TCH will be impassable.

My next report later this evening.

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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)
-Michaels
-Wal-Mart
-Wheat City Medical Clinic – contact the Superstore location
-MTS Connect . Services at 1535 Pacific Avenue. 571-4090.
-Montana’s
-Westoba Credit Union – phone & Online services unaffected.
-Future Shop : repairs and online services at 2050 Currie Blvd
-Starbucks
-Winburn Orthodontics – patients scheduled up to May 13th will be contacted
-TAN FX
– Ultracuts
-Ashley Furniture
-Chatters
– Liquor Store
– Winners
– Subway
 
OTHER BUSINESSES CLOSED IN THE FLOOD PLAIN
– 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)
-Sportsplex.
-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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Assiniboine Valley Closed for Business

Reid Dickie   

BULLETIN!  BULLETIN! BULLETIN!

        Access to Brandon remains limited from the north with First Street still closed at the top of the North Hill. The fast moving water of the Assiniboine River is lifting and warping the asphalt on First Street from below. Dikes along the strip are under constant surveillance this morning with re-enforcement continuing.

         To the west on 18th Street, traffic is limited to one lane in each direction. Dikes there appear to be holding but re-enforcement continues. The Kia, Toyota and Mazda dealerships have all deserted the lowlands, moving their vehicles to higher ground wherever they could find it. Motels, service stations, restaurants, convenience stores – every business along 18th Street in the valley is closed, shuttered and waiting. Almost 40 stores in Corral Centre, the entire mall, have shut down. Some have started moving merchandise.

Brandon’s spiffy new firehall is near the river but sits at some elevation, hopefully enough. In case the city is split in two and separated by raging water, some fire trucks and equipment have been moved to the north side of the river. 

       Over 1000 people have been evacuated from The Flats with more evacuation notices likely to come today.

       All the while, uncaring about commerce or insouciance and bringing us the double-edged gift of worry and insignificance, the mighty Assiniboine surges on, stretching its watery fingers across the land, caressing wherever it wants, relentless in its quest for the bay.

       The river is expected to crest in Brandon this week, no one seems certain when but likely within the next 60 hours. Good luck Brandon.

    Next report coming late Tuesday morning.

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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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