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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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Manitoba Flood Update June 18 – Driving Tour #2

Reid Dickie

Last Thursday I drove a 650 km loop around Manitoba that began on the TCH, then Hwy #16 then Hwy #5 into Dauphin. The Whitemud River has subsided but there are miles and miles of fields still completely covered with its floodwaters from ten days ago. This is most evident along Hwy #16 between Woodside and Neepawa.

I returned via Hwy #68 through the Lake Manitoba Narrows. The pictures of The Narrows give you an idea of how high the water is. All along the lakeshore there are inundated homes and people still scrambling to build dikes against the rising lake.

I passed at least six different points where sandbags were piled and available to the public. This picture is in McEwen Park in Eriksdale on the east side of Lake Manitoba.

Watch a short video of the situation at The Narrows.

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Manitoba Flood Update – June 15

Reid Dickie

“It’s a sad situation up here,” said Dave Shott, who has been farming around Arborg for 22 years. “We have nothing. The atmosphere out here is total despair.”

The despair this farmer feels is shared by thousands of others around the province. Over 2.5 million acres of farmland are too wet to seed this year. This is a record! Many crops that were seeded are now under water. The flood has caused a slump in house, cottage, farm equipment and vehicle sales in Manitoba.

Evacuations are still occurring due to new flooding. Mandatory evacuation notices were issued to approximately 100 people in the community of Vogar in the RM of Siglunes with additional mandatory evacuations at Kernsted Beach, Mrs. Ellie’s Drive, Skinny Dip Bay, Lundar Beach and Sugar Point in the RM of Coldwell. More people were evacuated from three First Nations around Lakes Manitoba and St. Martin this week.

A bridge near Treesbank was washed out as a provincial government employee was inspecting it. The man escaped without harm after being pulled from the Assiniboine.

Last Friday, as I was driving home through Riding Mountain National Park, I noticed at least half a dozen beaver ponds along the road had been recently drained. This includes a huge pond near Beach Ridges as you enter the park from the north. I called the Park office to enquire about this and was told the water from the ponds was threatening the highway in some places so they were drained. Just what we need, more water coming down off Riding Mountain!

It has rained heavily here for two days, adding to the worry and frustration and contributing to river flows province wide. The rivers of major concern today are the Qu’ Appelle, the Souris, the Whitemud and the Assiniboine. Flood watches continue for these rivers. I’ll have more firsthand flood reports on Friday.

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Lake Manitoba Flood Protest Rally

Reid Dickie

Several hundred angry, frustrated Manitobans gathered in front of the Manitoba Legislature early this afternoon to give the provincial government an earful. The all-ages crowd consisted of cottage owners, ranchers, permanent residents, First Nations people and farmers flooded out by Lake Manitoba. Their signs indicate their frustration level, which is as high as the water level in the lake. Due to overuse of the Portage Diversion, 900 properties around the lake are now inundated.

The provincial government stumbles along, still denying the lake flood is man-made (to quote Stan Struthers, our provincial minister of agriculture, “There’s nothing we can do about it.” Appropriately, Stan was thoroughly booed for that comment.) Next up was our minister of EMO, Steve Ashton who received the completely negative crowd reaction he has earned and so richly deserves. Ashton’s speech was mostly drowned out by shouting.

Was Our Great Leader, Moses Selinger, there? Nope. He was out at a media photo-op in Lundar, pretending to care, while The People he should be talking to came right to his doorstep. Also hiding out from The People today was our minister of water stewardship, Christine Melnick. Though there were calls for her from the crowd, no reason was given for her absence. I’m sure she had business much more pressing than dealing with the mere rabble outside.

The other hacks that lead the Conservative and Liberal parties in Manitoba spoke, with McFadyen, the Conservative ‘leader’ striding right up to the mike without waiting for an introduction. He’s a blatherer, dull, witless. The most inspiring speeches came from a cattle rancher flooded out by the Shoal Lakes and Barry Swan, the fiery young chief of Lake Manitoba First Nation, all 190 residents of which have been evacuated and are living indefinitely in Winnipeg hotels.

What I distilled from the event was there are six points and questions that the provincial government needs to address right now to assuage The People. In case the government doesn’t understand what the points and questions are (they don’t) I’ll list them:

  • Admit the flood of Lake Manitoba was man-made because of too much water coming into the lake and not enough leaving (it’s not rocket science),
  • Figure out a better drainage system at Fairford that will create a manageable balance in lake levels,
  • Treat people equally and fairly regarding compensation.
  • Why hasn’t the area around the lake been declared a provincial disaster area?
  • Where is the federal government?
  • When will we have access to our properties?

It’s a hot muggy day here today, thunderstorms are likely this evening. Ironically, The People had gathered just a block away from the river that is causing their havoc. The Assiniboine flows past the Legislature, filled to its banks but not threatening Winnipeg. That’s because the lakeshore residents took the hit. It’s time for the provincial government to own up and pony up for its bad judgment and mismanagement.

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Twin Lakes Beach Flood – Before and After #3

BEFORE

AFTER

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Twin Lakes Beach Flood – Before and After #2

BEFORE

Looking north along Twin Lakes Beach, picture was taken October 30, 2010

AFTER

The same stretch of lakeshore as it looked on May 19, 2011

 See the first Twin Lakes Beach Flood Before and After photos. See more pictures on Twin Lakes Beach Association’s Facebook page.

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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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Flooding in Souris

Reid Dickie

As I was browsing pictures of the Manitoba flood, I came across this shot of a house in Souris surrounded by a tube dike against the Souris River. The house looked familiar.

It is one of three nearly identical Souris houses designed by the same man. I wrote about one of the other houses – the McBurney house, a heritage building of great provenance. Here’s my earlier post on this grand old house from my Houses page.

McBurney House, Third St & Fifth Ave W, Souris, MB.

This house is a beauty! Built in 1909, architect Charles Hawkins Brindle loaded the house with Classical Revival elements. The massive front porch features heavy columns with Ionic capitals, flat brackets and dentil under its eaves and a low-pitched roof. The extended and hipped roof above the front corners suggests towers. Notice the sweet pitch of the roof and dormer. The brick chimney sports a chimneypot.

I write about other marvellous Manitoba heritage Houses.

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Manitoba Flood Update – June 9

Reid Dickie

The Rain Has Stopped!

That’s the best news! This map illustrates the normal amounts of rainfall Manitoba usually gets in May and the excessive accumulations this year. The following list shows how much more rain the area has received compared to normal amounts for May.

  • Souris, Estevan, Sask. and Minot, N.D., have received 297 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Hamiota has received 294 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Pierson has received 279 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Ste. Rose du Lac has received 254 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Virden has received 250 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • McCreary has received 246 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Melita has received 229 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Dauphin and Arborg have received 195 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Brandon has received 190 per cent of normal precipitation.
  • Portage la Prairie has received 182 per cent of normal precipitation.

So far, our spring has been cool and wet with a few summery days. Soils province-wide are saturated causing concern about flash flooding should we get more heavy rains. Fields and pastures remain underwater with farmers saying the land will be useless for years, residents along Lake Manitoba are demanding government buy-outs of their flooded properties, Dauphin Lake claims more and more properties, new crests of the Souris, Qu’ Appelle and Assiniboine Rivers are coming and emergency crews continue watching miles of dikes for breaches. Regarding the buy-outs, The Magnificent Selinger has flip-flopped on this, one day, no buy-outs, next day maybe buy-outs, then some buy-outs. Still pretty tense here.

Bartley Kives wrote an interesting piece about our lakes in the Brandon Sun. Best lead line this week is from Bill Redekop: “One cottage had seaweed clinging to the ceiling fan.”  Sad, poignant and descriptive – good one, Bill!

Provincial parks are either blossoming or bombing this year depending on their flood status. Three campgrounds around Lake Manitoba have been inundated and are closed for the season: Lundar Beach, St. Ambroise and Watchorn. Due to spring flooding and  increases in lake levels for the next several months, these three provincial park campgrounds will not open this season and efforts are underway to protect park infrastructure. Spruce Woods Park remains off-limits and inaccessible except for the higher campground. The provincial parks website has the latest information. A reminder: for the third year in a row there is no charge to visit Manitoba’s provincial parks, free admittance but campground fees still apply. Get out there and enjoy one of our parks.

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Manitoba Flood Update – June 6, 2011

Reid Dickie

While we rest safe and easy here in Winnipeg – the Red River Floodway now unnecessary and closed – over 2400 Manitobans are still evacuated from their homes by inundations from Lake Manitoba, Dauphin Lake, Lake St. Martin, Assiniboine River and Souris River, to name a few. Now the Saskatchewan River is threatening The Pas in northern Manitoba. The photos of the damage are heartbreaking. This picture of Delta Beach on the southern tip of Lake Manitoba has become a sad but typical scene along the shoreline. After last week’s torrential rains, many rivers and lakes will be cresting again over the next month, forcing emergency crews to remain vigilant.

Best Idea the Province Has Had in Ages!

Some good thinking, finally! The Manitoba government has a wind set-up alert system for Lake Winnipeg’s south basin, Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis and Dauphin Lake. There are three levels of alerts: moderate, high and severe. If wind set-up is forecast to be light, no alert will be issued. Alerts will be provided daily when winds are a concern and posted online at: http://www.manitoba.ca/waterstewardship/floodinfo/lakes_information.html#wind_alert The The website is clear, the alert colours evident and, as long it’s kept up to date with correct information (that’s the trick), can be an effective early warning system for lakeshore residents.

Now that the waters of Lake Manitoba have begun to slowly recede, damage to the 715 evacuated properties in St. Laurent R.M. can be assessed. A team of structural experts began checking properties in St. Laurent today, hopefully giving flood-evacuated residents some idea of when they can return home. The evacuation zone runs along the Lake Manitoba shore and nearly one kilometre inland. The re-entry safety inspection team has to give the all-clear signal before owners will be allowed back in.

Some residents along Lake Dauphin are still unable to go home. The mandatory evacuation notice for occupants of homes and cottages along Beach Road and Valhop Drive remains in place. The R.M. of Ochre River’s order has been in place since Saturday afternoon. For accommodations, permanent residents in the evacuation zone are being advised to register with the Province’s emergency social services at Dauphin City Hall. Forty-five residences in Ochre Beach and Crescent Cove are under the evacuation order, eight are permanent homes.

Least surprising announcement of the day

Lake Manitoba is now expected to hit 816.5 feet in July, almost a foot higher than previously forecast, Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick told the Manitoba Legislature today. Have you figured out why yet, Christine?

HELP!?

The scale, scope and ongoing nature of this year’s flood is very challenging for affected Manitoba families. There are resources to help deal with stress and anxiety in a crisis situation such as this flood. Resources include Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services 1-866-367-3276 (1-866-FOR-FARM) toll-free; Klinic Community Health Centre 24-hour Crisis Line 786-8686 in Winnipeg or 1-888-322-3019 toll-free; and Health Links–Info Santé which can also help find resources through local regional health authorities or the community mental-health services office 788-8200 in Winnipeg or 1-888-315-9257 toll-free. Additional information and tips are available at www.gov.mb.ca/flooding/stressinfo.html.

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Three Manitoba Flood Comments

I trawl select comment pages for accounts and background on the flood. Here are three comments from a CBC report about how much water the Portage Diversion added to Lake Manitoba, which continues to flood. I have no idea who made these statements, make no claim as to their veracity and present them as potential examples of how far ahead of the government Manitobans are and how deep the harm from man-made flooding has gone. Here’s the quote from the article.

“(Steve) Topping said extra flows from the diversion represented about three inches of water to Lake Manitoba.”

Comment #1

The “extra flows” are those in excess of 25,000 cfs. If you can calculate that, be honest with us now and tell us how much the entire diversion contributed over the full time of its operation and how much it continues to contribute, since it is still in operation. Please project how much more it will add. And don’t give us a wishy-washy “well, it’s hard to say because of the natural flows.” That’s untrue. It’s math. Calculate volume. To put things in perspective, tell us how much each river and the unnatural diversion individually contributed.

This is what many people along the lake, as well as those watching from across Manitoba, are wondering. Frankly, we know you made a mistake. You know it. Own up. Give us the facts. Telling the truth and giving information is the start to healing the people along the lake – though every storm is now going to rip open the wound caused by the use of Lake Manitoba as a storage facility.

Comment #2

Fairford River Flows:
8,400 cfs July 10 to Dec 1, 2010
5,600 cfs Dec 1, 2010 to mid-Feb 2011
9,100 cfs mid-Feb to mid-Apr 2011

Lake Manitoba level 812.66 at freeze-up, rose 4 inches to 812.99 at breakup. At the end of November last year someone made the decision to keep Lake Manitoba at or above regulated levels over the winter in order to prevent flooding downstream of the Fairford Dam.  In retrospect this appears to have been a very poor decision.

Comment #3

Volume of water which has flowed down the Portage Diversion between April 6 and June 2 equals 2,355,000 acre-feet.  Surface area of Lake Manitoba is approximately 1,152,000 acres.  Divide the first number by the second to arrive at the increase in lake levels due to the diversion is 2.04 feet.

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Kiche Manitou Campground Update, June 2, 2011

Reid Dickie

I just received the following email from Manitoba Parks regarding the status of the lower campground and infrastructure at Kiche Manitou Campground in Spruce Woods Provincial Park.

Dear Camping Customer:

The campground closure for Kiche Manitou Lower Campground in Spruce
Woods Provincial Park has been extended to include the remainder of the 2011
camping season. 

Buildings and infrastructure have been submerged by flood waters for
nearly two months.  Now in early June, water levels have still not fully
receded.  Clean-up and re-building is expected to be substantial.  The upper
level campground that includes nightly campsites, yurts and group use will
continue to be in operation.

Customers with existing reservations in the lower campground may
cancel or make changes on-line at manitobaparks.com or contact our call centre
directly at 1-888-482-2267 or in Winnipeg at 948-3333.  

We truly regret the inconvenience that these closures may mean to
your holiday plans, but feel it is our responsibility to let you know as soon as
possible so that you might make alternative arrangements.  If we can be of any
assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us through our call centre or at
945-4344.

We appreciate your patience; and, as always we look forward to seeing
you in one of our provincial parks in 2011! 

Yours truly,

Manitoba Parks

Highway access to Spruce Woods Provincial Park is still closed as Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure tries to keep ahead of road closures and repairs. It will be at least two more weeks before the highway reopens. Park attractions like Spirit Sands, Punchbowl and hiking trails all remain closed and off-limits due to flooding.

For the latest information, check Manitoba highway closures and conditions on an interactive map here.

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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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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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