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Manitoba Flood Update June 11, 2011 – My Driving Tour

Reid Dickie

Last Thursday I took a drive into rural Manitoba, destination Dauphin, to check out the aftermath of the torrential rains we received at the beginning of the week. There’s still water everywhere!

I travelled out the Trans Canada Highway west from Winnipeg to Portage. At the TCH crossings of the Assiniboine River, the water was as high as it’s ever been this spring. The Portage Diversion, carrying water from the Assiniboine into Lake Manitoba, was filled to the brim again. There appeared to be topping up activities along the dike. I turned onto Hwy #16 and didn’t encounter much new flooding until around Woodside, past Gladstone and almost into Neepawa, where the Whitemud River had spilled its banks. For miles and miles ditches and fields on both sides of the highway were flooded, as far as the eye could see in some places. The Whitemud drains the southeastern foothills of Riding Mountain, exactly where heavy rain fell Monday and Tuesday, causing flash flooding along its course. The earth here is already saturated, flash floods now more possible. This picture shows the brown murky water of the Whitemud, which has a distinct sewage odour, flooding the lower section of a rest stop on Hwy #16 before the Arden turnoff. Manitoba Water Stewardship (MWS) says the Whitemud will remain high until the runoff abates.

I turned north in Hwy #5 along the east side of Riding Mountain, crossing many of the streams that feed the Whitemud. Most of them were full and fast flowing. As I passed Ste. Rose du Lac I could see their ring dike which they just recently reopened. That evening my cousin Vonda and I took a drive east of Dauphin to view the flooding around Dauphin Lake. Dauphin Beach and Ochre Beach are inundated with many waterfront properties diked with heavy stones piled along the beach to protect their property from wave erosion. Many properties were flooded, sandbags were available at several locations  and people were busy hauling them away. The worst areas are Ochre Beach and Crescent Cove. The picture above is an aerial view of Crescent Cove on Dauphin Lake that appeared on the front of this week’s Dauphin Herald. The other pictures are ones I took of Dauphin Beach and Ochre Beach and show water levels that are still high but have subsided from the storm earlier in the week. Click to enlarge any picture.

Yesterday (Friday) I drove home through Riding Mountain National Park where I spotted deer, a coyote and a moose lifting its dripping head out of the swamp water with a mouth full of water weeds, a classic Hinterland Who’s Who moment. Trucks three axles or more cannot travel the highway through the park due to some soft road conditions. Overall, it’s still a pleasant and easy drive through a beautiful lush forest.

My next encounter with flood water was in the valley of the Little Saskatchewan River south of Erickson. Some of the fields were still flooded and the river hurtled along filled to the brink. The same river flows through Minnedosa which was diked in several areas. I drove south to Brandon and surveyed their situation. First and Eighteenth Streets are open and still thoroughly diked to about twelve feet. The water has receded in some areas around Brandon but a new crest of the Assiniboine is expected this week, returning the river to its record highs of a month ago.

As they await the next crest, towns and cities all along the Assiniboine from St. Lazare to Winnipeg are on tenterhooks. The town of Souris has declared a local state of emergency and sandbaggers are working day and night against the Souris River. In this picture a Souris family prepares to leave their diked home as the flood waters rise. Wawanesa is under the same conditions though MWS says the Assiniboine is now cresting in both those towns. More rain is expected early next week so they remain on alert. See NASA’s view of Souris River flooding.

The place least worried about this is Winnipeg. If the Assiniboine gets too high, ‘Magic’ Duff Selinger, Manitoba’s unelected premier, has promised to open Hoop and Holler Bend again to relieve the nasty river of a few hundred cubic feet of water per second so he can don his Moses outfit and blink and grin again. This man is so dumb he thinks this cynical ploy will work twice on Manitobans. We got it the first time – it was a fake-out, a publicity stunt. This time there is more at stake. The government has bungled Lake Manitoba water management so badly this year, both with the actual level of the lake and dealing with the tragic human aftermath of man-made flooding, they need a saviour move at Hoop and Holler Bend to divert attention away from their big mistakes on the big lake. MWS reported yesterday the Fairford River outlet from Lake Manitoba is flowing at its highest level ever. Grain of salt, folks. I just can’t believe what these people say any longer. The above After picture is of Twin Lakes Beach on Lake Manitoba after recent devastation from high water and winds. Compare it to this Before picture from the 1980s.

It’s becoming the flood that never ends. Build an ark people, build an ark. Get a grant or maybe even a buyout after the flood from the province to build it. Which reminds me the widely touted parting of the Red River by Moses Selinger has been moved off the back burner, I hear. Stay tuned.

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Manitoba Flood – Phase Two

Reid Dickie

WHAT A DAY!

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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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 – 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 – Monday May 16, 2011

Reid Dickie

Brandon is holding its breath tonight. The crest of the Assiniboine reached the Wheat City today and will maintain high water levels there for at least three days before any reduction begins. Thereafter it will take weeks, possibly months for the water to subside followed by massive clean ups. Brandon`s elaborate and constantly maintained dike system is still in good shape with about 20 small breaches in the past day. All were repaired. Residents north of the river in the valley remain on alert, listening for emergency evacuation sirens.

Brandon`s mayor Shari Decter Hirst and councillors, who today extended the local state of emergency for two more weeks, visited with evacuees in various hotels around the city where about 700 are lodged. The other 700 or so are staying with family and friends. Free entertainment, child-minding, laundry and psychological support are being offered to evacuees by Brandon city services. Mayor Decter Hirst, who had an enormous number of nay-sayers against her when she was elected last fall, is being viewed as a caring, conscientious  and sincere public servant who knows what to do. Her personal charm and fresh savvy are a lucky break for Brandon.

Reports downstream from the Shellmouth Dam support the notion the Assiniboine has crested once and for all. The situation remains precarious with any new precipitation a serious threat. No rain is forecast for the river`s basin and headwaters for the rest of this week and no new water is expected to enter the river.

West of Portage, the newly heightened Diversion is carrying enormous amounts of water into Lake Manitoba. Shore residents are bracing for the flood that follows increased water levels in the big lake. Selinger Lake continues its spread across farmland and gravel roads east of Portage tonight, the first waters of the drain now reaching Elm River, eventually entering the Red River past the Floodway entrance. This thin film of septic/chemical soup hasn`t washed away any buildings and the military keeps an eye on the leading edge of the water. You can walk faster than the spread of the intentional flood waters.

One tidbit of information conveniently misplaced is the reason why a mere 400 cfs (cubic feet per second) of water flowing through the Hoop and Holler Bend breach makes anything other than a negligible difference in the Assiniboine River which is, by the estimates of Manitoba Water Stewardship, flowing at about 32,000 cfs. The flow through the intentional cut seems small, a drop in a very large bucket. Maybe this is all just optics with the political bottom line: Winnipeg is still safe tonight.

The Trans Canada Highway remains open at Grand Valley with no road flooding reported. There are 113 provincial roads affected by flooding, with 67 closed. Approximately 768 municipal roads are closed. Here is the map of road conditions and closures in Manitoba. My next report will be Tuesday evening.

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Manitoba Flood Update – Sunday

Reid Dickie

The flood crest is approaching Brandon and residents in the valley north of the Assiniboine are listening for the emergency warning sirens. Evacuation routes have been announced in the event of a breach and, depending on the location and nature of the breach, north side residents will have minutes to evacuate the area. Not a comfortable place to be with river levels rising, the crest imminent within a couple of days and nervous public officials. So far, the Brandon dikes are holding, their condition described as “good but guarded.” Dike monitoring and maintenance goes on 24/7.

Tonight Brandon feels the greatest uncertainty yet in its “high water event.” Waiting and wondering, listening for the ominous howl of the emergency sirens as they echo across the wide valley. Palpable and real, there is fear in this prairie city tonight.

Downstream, Selinger Lake continues to fill. The fill rate appears to still be under control. The Hoop and Holler Bend, where the intentional breach was made, has an interesting history. Geographical Names of Manitoba says it was named for the “wild parties” held there. At one time back in pioneer days, a school sat near the site. It had an accompanying barn for the ponies and horses of students. The school was closed and moved but the barn remained and was used for barn dances and such. Often fights broke out between drunks at these dances and the neighbours could hear them “whooping and hollering,” thus the name. The barn was torn down or burned in the 1950s.

The weather is cooperating – sunny and dry for the entire region most of the week. So far, so good. A nervous night in Manitoba tonight. Be brave. Stay strong.

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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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