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Manitoba Flood Update – June 23

Reid Dickie

“Time to start building an ark,” said the elderly man ahead of me at the Hort’s this morning. Surveying the current situation, he may be right.

Deluges of rain in the Souris River watershed over the weekend have already raised the river to dangerously high levels  in Saskatchewan, where flash flooding has occurred, and North Dakota where the city of Minot has evacuated about 14,000 people. Twenty-six Saskatchewan communities have declared states of emergency due to flooding. That water now heads into Manitoba. Its first hot spot is the town of Melita, already heavily diked against the flow. These pictures I took on Tuesday show Melita’s current water levels.

Dikes around Melita will be bolstered against the new higher flows. Downstream the communities of Wawanesa and Souris are bracing for the new onslaught expected over the next three weeks. Existing dikes in Wawanesa will need come up eight feet to protect the town!  The Souris River drains into the Assiniboine which will continue to be heavily diverted north into Lake Manitoba, exacerbating the flood problems around its shore. In the past couple of days, more evacuations have occurred around the lake in the RM of Siglunes, town of Alonsa and Lake Manitoba First Nations. Watch a short video of flooding at Lake Manitoba Narrows. At this time, 2,649 Manitobans are evacuated from their homes. These pictures show more of the devastation at Twin Lakes Beach.

                                                                                                                                                             The excessive rainfall has saturated the prairies. Total rainfall between April 1 to June 21 at many locations in Saskatchewan and Manitoba is approaching annual totals. For example, Weyburn, SK has received 82% of annual normal precipitation (342 mm), Melita 51 per cent (516 mm), Souris 65 per cent (518 mm) and Brandon 61 per cent (472 mm). It’s a sunny, muggy day in Manitoba today and similar in southeast Saskatchewan. However, more rain is ahead for the Souris River basin this weekend.

There are currently 31 states of local emergency (SoLE) and five prevention orders. Since the Manitoba Emergency Co-ordination Centre opened in early April for spring flooding, there have been 67 SoLEs and 31 prevention orders declared across the province by local authorities.

I took these next three pictures on Tuesday. My friend Chris surveys inundated Riverside Park, where the Souris River crosses Hwy #10 south of Brandon. The Souris River flows toward an old bridge next to the park then the view downstream.

The prairies remain vigilant for sudden flooding and unexpected rainfall amounts.

I am working on an update about Spruce Woods Provincial Park for posting over the next two days. Keep your powder dry.

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Filed under Flood, Natural Places, Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan Flood Report #1

Reid Dickie

After receiving over 120 mm (about 5 inches) of rain in two days, Weyburn, SK is under a state of emergency due to flooding downtown, failure of their water treatment plant and continuing heavy rains.

City water has been declared undrinkable and dangerous with a boiling directive in place. I stayed in Weyburn at the Canalta Inn and Suites on Sunday night, arriving late afternoon about the same time as a thunderstorm with heavy rains began. It rained most of the night as over two dozen pumps and fire trucks tried to move water from the south side of Hwy #39 to the north side so it can drain into the Souris River. Emergency vehicles sped past my room all night. The flood arrived quickly and thoroughly in Weyburn. Most downtown businesses were closed with Boston Pizza being one of the few exceptions. Bottled water was scarce, even Wal-Mart ran out. The look of concern on the face of the front desk clerk at the hotel spoke volumes about the local worry. They weren’t renting rooms on the first floor that night “just in case.”  

Down the road in Estevan, SK things are getting worse. I stayed in Estevan at The Derrick on Monday night. A small lake formed behind the hotel and inched slowly toward the building while it rained all night. A trailer park has been completely evacuated, homes have been lost, both dams that face into the city are under the duress of unequalled amounts of water and it continues to rain. Boundary Dam holds back the water of Long Creek and is Sask Power’s largest thermal generating station and the largest lignite coal-burning station in Canada. The Rafferty Dam holds back the Souris River forming the gigantic Rafferty Reservoir which stretches northwest for 57 kms. Both dams are at their max as far as volume of water in their reservoirs. To relieve some of the pressure on the dams, record amounts of water are being released from both dams. This water becomes the Souris River. Estevanians fear that if either dam breaches, the city is in big trouble real quick. Highway #47 south of Estevan is closed due to flooding as is Highway #18 west of Estevan. 

Meanwhile, just downstream from Estevan and the dam outlets is the little village of Roche Percee, situated on the banks of the engorged Souris River. 180 people have been evacuated and at least half the homes in the low-lying portion of the village are believed to be almost completely underwater.

“It’s just numbing. It’s out of our control,” said Coalfields RM administrator Valerie Pelton. “It’s not a slow scar or a slow burn. It’s all happened so quick. We’ve got lots of families very seriously stressed. There’s a lot of numbness and people just don’t always know what to do. We’re not even sure if Roche Percee is a place people will ever be able to go home to.”

A 150-km section of the Trans-Canada Highway is closed in Saskatchewan, due to water over the highway. The closure stretches from Whitewood to Balgonie with traffic detouring via Highways 9 and 10. Local traffic can access Sintaluta and points west from Balgonie, and Wolseley and points east from Whitewood.

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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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Filed under Flood, Local History, Natural Places

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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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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The Flood Moves North – Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reid Dickie

Reminder: hover cursor over picture for caption/comment

“Get rid of God and religion and replace it with a government which pretends to deliver redemption with a cheque book; but how does the rational age god guarantee redemption without perpetual motion of the second kind? This is a thing of beauty: subsidize the destruction of nature (soil, water, specie) and then compensate the recipients when their subsidy cannot be collected because big bad old nature huffed and puffed. Yes it is a thing of beauty for the middlepeople who collect taxes, distribute subsidies, and then offer compensation for the inconvenience of failed assumptions while they pay themselves for all of the transactions involved. And we only have to sacrifice with infinite debt to accomplish this thing of beauty.” comment by Eco Bimbo on Free Press story about Manitoba government spewing $175 million around for compensation and more protection from future floods.

Meanwhile, for the rubber boots brigades around Lake Manitoba, things just keep getting worse. Two-thirds of the water coming down the Assiniboine for the past two months has been diverted their way and their front yards and basements are full, their riprap rocks swept away, properties flooded and an ominous sense of dread builds when they hear the northwest wind get up. Properties all around Lake Manitoba are flooded including Oak Point, Twin Beaches and Johnson Beach on the east shore. Delta Beach on the south shore has a voluntary evacuation of 30 permanent residences in place tonight. Big winds came blasting in from the northwest yesterday wrecking havoc along the virtually unprotected south shoreline, especially Delta Beach. Many residents are saying they had no warning and no help from the government. Manitoba Water Stewardship claims 100 military personel are in the area assisting and another 100 along the Assiniboine. Where did the other 1500 we had a week ago disappear to? They are needed. This ain’t over yet and somebody should probably tell MWS and the military that, soon.

Lake Manitoba outflows via the Fairford River, which is dammed right at the lake. It drains into Lake St. Martin, around which two First Nations are flooded out, then, via Dauphin River into the north basin of Lake Winnipeg then into Hudson Bay. According to today’s Flood Bulletin from MWS, “the Fairford River water control structure continues to operate at full capacity. Outflows from Lake Manitoba on the Fairford River and further downstream on the Dauphin River remain high.” So more water is being dumped into the big lake than its outlet can handle thus flooding. No brainer.

Inundated, St. Ambroise Provincial Park, which juts out into Lake Manitoba, Lundar Beach and Watchorn campgrounds on the lake, will not open this year. Tonight the waters from the weekend storms are surging gravity-driven toward their destiny in wide Hudson Bay and, as the flood moves north, the people in the way take their turn holding their breath.

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Spruce Woods Provincial Park Flooding – Tuesday, May 24

Reid Dickie

It appears my favourite provincial park won’t be hosting many visitors in the near future as the Assiniboine is having its way with the little place. According to Manitoba Highways, Highway #5, which passes through Spruce Woods Provincial Park and provides its major access route, is still closed between Carberry and Glenboro. Though the bridge is holding, the road north and south of it has been washed out. The department is hoping the bridge holds and will be safe for use after the river subsides. Regardless, the section of Hwy #5 through the valley will have to be resurfaced.

Manitoba Conservation in Carberry told me today there is currently very limited use of Spruce Woods Park with just the upper campground and the yurts accessible and available. Six of the thirteen yurts were in use over the long weekend. Access to upper campground and yurts is from Hwy #2 using Steel’s Ferry Road. See the map.

There isn’t much to do in the park because all but a short section of one trail, Spirit Sands, Punchbowl, Marsh Lake and lower campgrounds are closed due to flooding. The park office is still flooded with water almost to the eaves. Re-opening the park depends on when the water subsides, the amount of damage the flooding caused and how long it takes to complete repairs to roads, buildings and sites. Most of the park will be closed until July 28 when the situation will be reevaluated. Reservations are being taken for yurts and the upper campground at the provincial parks call centre: 1-888-482-2267 or 948-3333 in Winnipeg. Good luck.

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Filed under Accommodations, Flood, Natural Places, Parks, Sacred Places