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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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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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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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Twin Lakes Beach Flood – Before and After

Twin Lakes Beach is on a narrow slice of land between Lake Manitoba and Lake Francis on Lake Manitoba’s eastern shore. The first aerial picture was taken in the 1980s. The second picture was taken June 2, 2011.

BEFORE 

AFTER

There are more pictures of the destruction at Twin Lakes Beach Association Facebook page.

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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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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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Amazing Flood Video – The Power of Wind and Water

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to watch your property, which you worked to sandbag and protect, so easily flooded and the dikes surmounted. Watch this short video of flood waters blown onshore yesterday at a home property on Lake Manitoba between Twin Lakes Beach and St. Laurent. You can see the wind change direction about halfway through, throwing the lake onto the land.

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Manitoba Flood Update – June 1

Reid Dickie

CKDM Radio in Dauphin is reporting extensive new flooding in many northern regions. It`s not just cottage country being inundated.

The RM of Ochre River has announced a Mandatory evacuation notice for residents of Beach Road and Crescent Cove. Residents of other areas in Ochre Beach affected by flooding will be allowed local access to secured areas. These additional areas are on stand-by for evacuation. The RM says if the high winds continue, additional evacuations will be announced later in the week. Over 50,000 sandbags are on route to the area from the Provincial Government. As well, a sandbagging machine and a team of flood specialists should be on the scene by Friday. No volunteers are being asked for at this time since strong waves are preventing the shoring up of dikes.

The Village of Winnipegosis is in full flood prevention mode as the town battles leftover flooding from Tuesday. Resident Melody Penner says there was lots of hard work happening yesterday. At last update the Village was experiencing breaches along sections of a dike which was completed north of Lily Street. The Village is asking people to please keep away from the beach area and trailer court as work continues, and they are warning that unauthorized vehicles and traffic may be charged. For more information, call the Winnipegosis information line at 656-4876.

All the heavy rain in the short period of time yesterday has prompted the Village of McCreary to go into a local state of emergency. However this does not mean people are being told to evacuate. The emergency has caused the towns sewer system to overload and several basements have flooded due to the sewer backing up. The village is asking for volunteers to sandbag, if you can please go to the Village of McCreary shop at First and East behind the hospital. For further information call 204-835-2341.

The RM of Siglunes has extended the State of Emergency from June 2 to June 16th due to high lake levels, overland flooding and increased rainfall.Local emergency measures personnel are monitoring properties along Lake Manitoba and problem areas. Residents are encouraged to use caution when travelling on flooded roads. Flooded sections should be marked with stakes to identify at risk areas. Property owners are encouraged to check dikes and contact EMC personnel or the RM Office 768-2641 if they need further assistance or sandbags.

The media seems to be parked at Delta Beach. Meanwhile, most of St. Laurent and Oak Point were evacuated last night. The lake has moved inland almost a kilometer in some spots after last nights storm, with whitecaps rolling where fields and lawns once were. It is not just hurting cottage country anymore. These are people being displaced from their family homes, quite far from the waterfront.

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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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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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