Tag Archives: military

Souris Prepares for the Flood Crest

Reid Dickie

I visited Souris on Canada Day (July 1), on Monday (July 4) and Tuesday (July 5) taking pictures and videos with my new high-definition camcorder on each visit.

All day Friday 300 trucks hauling diking material rumbled around the town of 2,000 people, trucks were filled and dispatched every thirty seconds. The sense of urgency was palpable in the race against the rising river after which the town is named, its crest expected within days. The date of the crest had changed daily causing further anxiety and uncertainty. A main focus was to protect the water treatment plant located right next to the river. If it gets flooded the town will have to be evacuated. Click the picture to watch the short video.

The distinctive and slightly frantic cry of peacocks were a plaintive counterpoint to the thundering trucks and machinery. Peacocks? Yes, Souris has a bird sanctuary next to Victoria Park which is flooded. The birds now free range around town and most everywhere you can hear their frequent cries adding an incongruent exotica to the prairie town. I’m startled by the loud piercing cry as I walk past some shrubbery with a peacock nestled in it. Click the pic to watch my short video of this fine display of male peacock plumage.

Around 1910, local architect Charles Brindle designed three stately Souris houses that are almost identical. One of the houses stands on the banks of the river and has been heavily fortified against the rising water. I write about these houses on my Houses page. In the picture you can see the roof of the house behind the treatment plant. Click the pic to see a short video of the diked house. 

Over the weekend 375 troops from CFB Shilo were called in to help finish up the diking. By Monday most of the work had been completed along the dikes. With the river level barely a foot below the bridge, stones were put in place to reenforce the foundation. This picture shows the river level slightly higher on Monday. Click picture to see my short video of Monday’s operations.

By Monday the mainstream media had figured out there’s potential for sensational catastrophe here. Click here to see my short video and comment. Another change on Monday was the world famous longest swinging bridge, a major tourist attraction for Souris, had to be cut for fear it would dislodge some of the dikes if the water swept it away. The river was within four feet of the swinging bridge when I visited on Friday. Watch my short video with before and after footage and the bridge’s history.

As I write this post the crest is passing through Souris and the dikes are holding. No major breaches have been reported and the lack of rainfall in the past few days means the crest is about two feet lower than anticipated, all of which is good news for the little town. The water will stay high in Souris for a few days.

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Manitoba Flood Update – June 27

Reid Dickie
More Water Sooner!
 
It’s the next crest of the Souris River that we are watching and preparing for now. Water volumes arriving from North Dakota are higher than expected making existing dikes inadequate to the coming water levels. The new crests could start arriving in Manitoba by the end of the week, sooner than anticipated.
 
Melita, already virtually under siege by the Souris River, is calling for more volunteers to fill sandbags and do other duties and they are paying $15 an hour. If you can help out call the Melita town office at 522-3413. Mayor Bob Walker seems pretty confident the dike system will hold but he says two businesses near the dikes have been evacuated. So far no homes in Melita have been evacuated but that could change quickly. One section of the town is on alert.
 
A little further downstream Wawanesa begins to evacuate homes. Evacuation notices have been issued for 13 homes. Residents will have to be out by 6 pm Tuesday. Wawanesa mayor Bruce Gullet says it’s a precaution as is evacuating Wawanesa’s personal care home for the second time. He says the entire dike system is being rebuilt to make it stronger and higher. Volunteers are needed badly in Wawanesa as well.
 
The town of Souris has issued approximately 30 more mandatory evacuation notices for homes. Residents, mostly right along the Souris River and Plum Creek, must be out today. Sixty-four homes in Souris have already been evacuated. Famous for having the longest swinging bridge, which spans the Souris, crews have determined that saving the bridge is too risky. With the strong current, the landmark may be swept away. The town’s dike system is being raised and reinforced.  Souris emergency coordinator Sven Kreusch says they have requested military help but received no response.
 
If these small towns are having to pay for “volunteers” to help protect them, isn’t it a no-brainer to get the troops back to support these flood-weary people. Various protocols have to be satisfied for this to happen but, while the bureaucracy grinds slowly, the Souris River rises fast and travels furiously. While the province provides engineers to determine required dike work, they have few bodies to contribute to the actual building. I would hate to think Tsar Selinger is holding back on inviting the military to assist because they would steal his thunder, such as it is. Selinger is desperate. He needs to seem competent at something/anything but comes off looking cynical, manipulative and unkind again.
 
I don’t watch television but my friend Terry said the CBS Evening News translated the French word souris, meaning mouse, into English, changing the name of the river from Souris to the Mouse River. Pronouncing a word as complex as souris (sir’ iss) would be a major challenge for American talking heads and editors.
 
I took this picture of the Portage Diversion at Trans Canada Highway crossing yesterday. It’s still almost filled to the brim but with a little freeboard to accommodate the Souris now barreling toward it.

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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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Filed under Flood, Images, Local History, Natural Places, Prairie People

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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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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Manitoba Flood Update – Wednesday, May 18

Reid Dickie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Manitoba Flood Update – Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reid Dickie

“Don’t Come to Brandon.”

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

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

“Controlled” release set for Thursday 

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

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

Other rivers and lakes

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

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

Provincial government flood information here.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

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