Tag Archives: souris river

Rural Route Images

Reid Dickie

More images from my summer travels around Manitoba. Click pics to enlarge.

Next to Hwy #16 east of Neepawa 


Coming from the west is the opposite sign


Fungus on dead tree, Riding Mountain National Park


Great running lights on the most macho truck on the road, Portage la Prairie


Old slumping banks of  Souris River, Wawanesa


Long abandoned elevators in Elva


Ancient outhouse on my cousin Vonda’s farm, south of Dauphin


Sign in washroom of Sipiweske Museum, Wawanesa


Muddy boots of seal coating crew, entrance Days Inn, Brandon


Percy Criddle’s telescope in Sipiweske Museum, Wawanesa (much more on this in later post)


Sunset on grid road, near Hayfield


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Filed under Bridges, Day Tripping, Local History, Museum, Natural Places, Pioneer Village

Souris Will Swing Again – 2012 Update

Reid Dickie

A year ago, in the summer of 2011, the Souris River wreaked havoc on the little town that bears its name (Souris means ‘mouse’ in French) leaving its valley and many amenities in ruins, including the town’s main tourist draw, the swinging bridge, a historic achievement but a small nightmare for people with height and balance issues.

This year plans have been set to rebuild the historic swinging bridge: footings in by the fall and cabled spanning completed when the river freezes. It’s good news for the beleaguered little town.

In my August 9, 2012 video report find out what’s up with Souris’ free-range peacock community and know, just know in your heart, that the Sowden Castle, now Hillcrest Museum, is filled with provocative and precious relics that resonate from all our pale-face pasts as the ancestors ventured onto the broad western frontier. Feel the wind burning your face, squint at the unbelievable brightness of the sun (sans chem trails) and feel the deep down sacredness of your own flesh, your own moment. To watch my video update on the swinging bridge, peacocks and peahens (say it out loud) and the Sowden Castle click the pic of the peahens (say it out loud again, go on, you want to) below.

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Filed under Birds, Flood

Two Days Out On the Prairie

Reid Dickie

Hot and windy, the temperature hit 30 degrees today (about 86 F.), amazing for early October. Something similar for the next two days before seasonal temperatures prevail. The warm weather stoked my wanderlust and I headed into southwestern Manitoba on Tuesday, doing a couple of video reports and gathering images for a large video project I’m working on.  This red maple at Marsh Lake in Spruce Woods Park was in full blaze.

I stopped by Campbell Lisk Heritage Park below Hwy 10 next to the Souris River. The first picture is the flooded park taken in June and the second one I took yesterday.

The little park, at flood peak, had over seven feet of water in it from the Souris River. Now the water is gone, the flood cake has dried out and turned into a fine grey powder that sails on every gust of wind. The vegetation has started to return; the spruce trees suffered and each is surrounded by a circle of brown dead needles, waterkill from the flooding. The other difference in the two pictures is how everything has dried out. The recent shot shows how arid we are now after a hot virtually rainless summer.

I took a hike halfway around Marsh Lake in Spruce Woods Park today to survey the hiking trail. The flood cake from the flooding Assiniboine extends well back from the lake, in some places over fifty feet. The grey floodcake is dried out but several plants have asserted themselves quickly, notably grassy sedges and horsetail along the wettest parts. Further back and in the shade poison ivy, now scarlet and quite evident, flourished in the grey dry soil. Though the day was hot and sunny, I didn’t see any turtles sunning along Marsh Lake. The flood changed the ecology of the lake so it will take time to restore it or evolve into a new habitat. The turtles know what to do.

I haunted some cemeteries on my drive and have some interesting epitaphs to report. In the little cemetery just outside of Margaret, MB I found these three, the first rather common but profound: Sleeping in Jesus, the comforting Under His Wings and, chiselled into an old old stone, Nevertheless he lives. In my hometown cemetery, I found the most effervescent one of the trip: She has joined the dance, the sprightly dance, the dance ever-existing.

By the way, everything is up-to-date in Treherne, MB. Besides having buildings made of bottles, nice people and a pretty location, Treherne has the Birch Motel which is all mod cons as you can see! Waterbeds and direct dial phones…a little slice of heaven on Hwy 2.

Ghost towns are appearing more frequently now. The siding of Kelloe and fading village of Solsgirth are no longer acknowledged with signs along Hwy 16. Kelloe consists of a family home with modern kids stuff in the yard and a few tumbledown houses in the bush. Solsgirth appeared to have two houses being lived in. The entire population of McConnell when I went through it this morning was two horses. Although the school, church and an old house or two survive, no people live there. Instead the people erected a cairn to signify where McConnell is/was. Apparently you can’t rely on the memories of horses for this kind of thing. Cardale was pert and mowed, the few souls it supports keep busy and wave at me. Margaret has 9 people and 30 boxes in its post office, mostly farmers. I mention to the postmistress (how quaint does that sound?) that my parents lived in Margaret when I was born and so did I until we moved to Hayfield four years later. She remembered hearing our family name in the district.

I’ll end with two pictures of a delightful old weather-depainted Queen Anne style house I gaped at in Newdale today. The lovely gables with elaborate carved bargeboards and the over window and door detailing make this almost ghostly pile extra special. I wonder if it glows in the dark? It has a little satellite dish!

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Filed under Day Tripping, Flood, Ghost Towns, Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage, Prairie People, Roadside Attractions

Another Manitoba Sinkhole

Reid Dickie

Our engorged rivers are reshaping the Canadian landscape to the extreme this year. Water, in its eternal compulsion to conform to gravity, etches its slow-hewn language through valleys and onto flatlands. Now a new sinkhole has opened up along the Souris River in an undisclosed location near the town of Souris, Manitoba.

Similar in features to the Dauphin sinkhole, it appears calling either of these a sinkhole is a misnomer. Landslide appears to be the official explanation of the phenomena at both sites. The adjacent rivers and their abundant flows this year have eaten away enough of the banks for masses of earth to slide into the valleys. At the Dauphin site, the Vermillion River takes a sharp deep turn just below the landslide. At the Souris site, the valley wall appears to have collapsed and slid toward the river.


Filed under Earth Phenomena, Flood, Local History, Natural Places

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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Filed under Earth Phenomena, Flood, Local History, Momentous Day, Prairie People

Souris Flood Videos

Reid Dickie

Fresh footage I shot of the preparations for the crest of Souris River in Souris, Manitoba over the weekend. More videos and the feature post to come shortly.

Brindle house under duress


The Free Ranging Peacocks of Souris 


Victoria Park under water


The media come to Souris


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Spruce Woods Provincial Park Flood Update – June 24, 2011

Reid Dickie

There has been little change in the status of Spruce Woods Provincial Park since my last update. Most of the park’s amenities remain closed and inaccessible due to flooding, including Spirit Sands and Punchbowl, Ispuitinaw Trail, Marsh Lake, the lower area of Kiche Manitou Campground, concession stand and canoe campground.

The upper campground and yurts at Kiche Manitou Campground are open and accessible with the parks call centre taking reservations. Access to these campground sites is only via Hwy #2 from the south, but not the Trans Canada Highway. This map shows the detour. By the way, for the third year in a row, there is no entry fee to visit Manitoba’s provincial parks. They are free! Great deal! Camping fees still apply.

There’s not much to do this year at Spruce Woods but a few of the trails are open or partially open. Using Carberry and TCH access from the north, Epinette Creek is partially open, that is to cabin #2 and Juniper Loop but the trail is closed at start of Tamarack Loop. Arriving from the south, the Hogs Back Trail is open, Spring Ridge Trail is partially open with some flooded sections. This trail has been expanded. Warning signs are posted. The Trans Canada Trail east of upper campground is open, equestrian trails are open with some sections flooded and the main equestrian campground is open.

The prognosis for the park reopening is not good. Ominously, the Souris River joins the Assiniboine just upstream from Spruce Woods and, with the volume of water rolling down the Souris today, it is conceivable Highway #5 through the park will remain closed for the summer, and, depending on the extent of damage, possibly for the year. Though the bridge is still holding, there is massive wash-out of the highway on either side.

As one who hikes Spirit Sands at least a dozen times every summer, I’m having hiker withdrawal this year not being able to walk the land. Linda’s beautiful photographs of the sands in this post will have to do for now. The Assiniboine has probably inundated the low-lying Punchbowl but the sands themselves are at a much higher elevation and escape flooding. I’m imagining how pristine and pure the untrodden dunes must be, how delicately the rivulets of water have drawn their paths down the sloping trails and how the log ladders are buried from disuse.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, BEAUTY, Carberry, Family, Flood, Linda, Natural Places, Parks, Sacred Places, Spirit, spirit sands

Manitoba Flood Update – June 23

Reid Dickie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Flood, Natural Places, Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan Flood Report #1

Reid Dickie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Flood, Saskatchewan

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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Filed under Flood, Local History, Natural Places, PRAIRIES

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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Filed under Flood, Heritage Buildings

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?


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.


Filed under Flood, Local History, Prairie People

Manitoba Flood – Phase Two

Reid Dickie


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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Filed under Flood, Local History, Natural Places

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 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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My Weekend

         This is a very bloggy thing for me to do but I’m reporting on what I did this weekend. I rented a Ford Fusion from Enterprise (a company I recommend) and drove 800 kms in rural Manitoba since Friday morning, visiting two cousins, making new friends and seeing old friends. Friday I drove to Dauphin, MB, north of Riding Mountain National Park on the edge of which lives my cousin Vonda. We share the family spirit connection.

        I spent two weeks of every youthful summer at Aunt Ina and Uncle Derk’s farm just north of Riding Mountain near Vonda’s farm. The shape of the mountain, basically a bit of end moraine left by the receding Ice Age now furred with rich green forest, loomed on the horizon and left an indelible impression. It felt warm and generous being next to that familiar shape again. Here’s a wide view of Riding Mountain bulging along the horizon.      This is Friday’s sunset outside my hotel room door.

          Vonda’s farm sits at the mouth of a deep and wide valley that opens out of Riding Mountain Park about two miles away. On Saturday afternoon, armed with bear spray and her dogs Rebel and Hawkeye, we took a long walk along the top of the valley through stands of oak and poplar. A creek swollen with melting mountain snow burbled down the valley.

        At one spot above the dugout and a small slough we heard an amazing sound coming up the valley wall. It sounded like ducks maybe or crows reading James Joyce or grouse at a lek dancing and singing. It was very horny, urgent, unrelenting. It turned out to be frogs mating as this vid I found demonstrates the sound and its source. Image it loud and incessant arising from an unknown place 200 feet below on a warm, still afternoon. 

      This is a shot across the valley with creek on left, slough in centre and pasture above. The frog song echoed up and across the valley.   


        After a hearty home cooked meal and bottle of wine, I spent another night at the Canway Inn, which I don’t recommend. Dauphin has better lodgings. Sunday morning I drove through Riding Mountain National Park on Hwy #10. The speed limit is a leisurely 80 km through the 60 km park. There was little traffic, saw a couple of deer and enjoyed the pace away from the hive. 

         Highway #10 eventually got me to Brandon where I visited my cousin Duncan and his lovely companion Christine. Brandon is rambunctious with housing development in every direction, as a tour from Duncan proved. Many of the new streets don’t have streetlights, some the streets aren’t even complete before the houses are ready. The place is “growing” so quickly that the city of my birth has become a tawdry example of unremitting urban sprawl and big box stores dumbly built on a floodplain in a valley, many now threatened with flooding by the mischievous Assiniboine River. Ha!

      Luckily Brandon has rich and living heritage and I always find a new example of it every time I visit. We were driving down 2nd Street near Princess and a row of old two-storeys caught my eye. Three of them had the same elaborate Eastlake Stick style bargeboard under their front gables. Brandon has other fine examples of the style. I jumped out and snapped all three.

Brandon’s finest example of the style is the former Paterson/Matheson House at 1039 Louise Ave. You can read more about this pile on my Houses page.

I’ve long admired the old stone fence next to my cousin’s house in Brandon. One of its sections needs a good stonemason to get it vertical again.

                I drove out Highway #10 south of Brandon to Riverside Park, a favourite stopping place next to the Souris River. The park is no longer beside the river but in the river. The Souris is flooding its banks frequently this year. It empties into the Assiniboine near Wawanesa. This is a picture of the flooded park.

And here the mighty Souris floods on

         As I was leaving the park in the ditch two wild turkeys were strutting around, feathers fanned and fierce. The weather was cooperative, it’s too early for serious highway construction to become obstruction, too early for wood ticks and there wasn’t much traffic for a holiday weekend.

     I enjoyed the driving but part of the weekend was to test the intensity of my wanderlust this year, at least giving it an initial airing to see how far its range needs to extend. Still pondering that. The familiar scenery, the memories associated with the region and the wonderful spirit of the people made the trip a double dose of spring tonic for me.

      To end here’s a shot of the mixed forest along the top of the valley next to Riding Mountain.

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