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.
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.
Brandon mayor Shari Decter Hirst emphasized at the morning media briefing that Brandon is in for the long haul now. “This is our new normal for the next little while,” she said. “We have to live with this.”
The Assiniboine hasn’t crested yet. Brandon is in for weeks of high water levels requiring patience and forbearance. This morning new precautionary measures were announced. The Corral Centre and adjacent Paddock shopping centres are now under mandatory evacuation. The few stores still open are closing today. Traffic and speed limits on 18th Street are being restricted due to concerns about vehicles crashing into dikes.
Fifty thousand more sandbags have arrived in Brandon to increase the dikes by another 30 cms to accommodate new higher water levels announced by the province today. The crest of the Assiniboine is still a few days away according to Manitoba Water Stewardship. When it arrives it will be a prolonged crest, at least three days. No new residential evacuations are planned. Over 1300 people have been forced out of their homes so far. The few stragglers left in the flood risk zone have indicated they will leave today.
The Trans Canada Highway remains open despite rising water levels in Grand Valley. There is no water on the road.
The province’s decision to let river water intentionally flood an area southeast of Portage la Prairie has been put on hold for now. The flooding was supposed to occur at 8 a.m. this morning but now an announcement will be made this afternoon at two. Many of the residents in the “controlled” flood area had some loud and nasty things to say to the media yesterday and this morning. The premier is considering his future here and one can only hope this move was vetted by multiple engineers with credentials and experience but no political motives rather than the egocentric dreams of a single-minded politician looking to “save Manitoba.” The Manitoba website promised a map of the whole area to be intentionally flooded but none appeared and is still not available today. This is not a good time to keep people in the dark! Below is a diagram of the proposed site at Hoop and Holler Bend where the intentional flooding begins.
Although not as transparent as it should be, provincial government flood information is here. My next report will be this evening after the 4 p.m. Brandon briefing and provincial decision on intentional flooding. Thanks for checking out my blog. Reid