Volunteers in the Rural Municipality of Saint Laurent are braving the driving rain today to warn cottagers about a rising Lake Manitoba.
On Wednesday, Saint Laurent CAO Diane Friesen said that the R.M. is aiming to deliver letters to every cabin and cottage in the affected area, advising them to protect their valuables and prepare for a chance of a mandatory evacuation as the lake continues to swell.
Right now, the R.M. is not requiring people to leave, but some owners have decided it’s better safe than sorry. "We’re telling each individual property owner that it’s their call," Friesen said. "There are some that are already starting to pack up in Laurentia Beach."
At issue: the province has predicted that Lake Manitoba’s eastern shore would rise to 815.5 feet above sea level by mid-June. But after a full night of rain in the area and more water flowing into the lake from waterlogged western Manitoba, the R.M. worries that the lake may hit that point well before then – and possibly flood beyond that level.
"It’s going to get worse," Friesen said. "We’ve been told that ice is protecting the people along the lake at the moment. But if the winds shift and ice goes out, it could be a disaster far sooner."
The R.M. is preparing for that worst-case scenario. The province’s sandbagging machine is on its way to the area today, and 200,000 sandbags have already been secured to start diking the most at-risk properties.
In total, as many as 1,400 properties could be affected if the lake continues to swell, Friesen said.