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Delta Beach devastated by high water, storm

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DELTA BEACH — Sandy Brooks' cottage looks as though a tornado picked it up and ripped it in half.
Tuesday's wind and waves crashed through her cottage with such force that most of her furniture was washed hundreds of feet into the marsh and her living room was torn off and shoved about 30 feet away.

Oddly enough, her cups and dishes remained neatly stacked in the kitchen cupboards. Those, plus a rocking chair, a futon and some things from the shed, are most of what she could salvage Thursday.

"It's beyond describing," said Brooks, as she surveyed the gaping hole where her living room once was.
Hers is one of about 38 cottages at Delta Beach that were all but totalled Tuesday night when gale-force winds caused huge waves and prompted a mandatory evacuation and damaged almost all of the 200-odd cottages at Delta Beach. The storm caused similar damage in several other cottage communities on the shore of Lake Manitoba.

At Delta Beach, days of hauling in rocks for breakwalls as well as sandbags and supersandbags for dikes proved futile. Waves higher than people's eavestroughs crashed over decks, smashed living room windows and sent debris and mini-sand dunes into people's cottages.

A boat tour revealed home after home with no north wall, piles of trees and sand where decks used to be and even many homes teetering over gaping holes where cement blocks or foundations used to be.

"The next storm will just take everything," said Doug Connery, a vegetable farmer near the Hoop and Holler cut who also has a family cottage at Delta Beach. "If that happens, there’s a 60 to 70 per cent chance there will be no Delta Beach."

Cottagers such as Connery, whose father was a cabinet minister in the Filmon government, wondered why the province didn’t lower lake levels over the winter when it knew a flood loomed. And they wonder why the province can’t boost flows through the Fairford dam, the outlet of Lake Manitoba, or begin work post-haste on an outlet channel between Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg.

The province’s top flood-fighter, Steve Topping, said Thursday the Fairford dam has been working at capacity since last November — the estimated flow Thursday was 17,380 cubic feet per second.

The amount of water discharged now through the control structure is more than twice as much as the Fairford River handled before the structure was first used in 1961.

Topping said concerns about flooding three First Nations downstream on Lake St. Martin restricts the increased use of the dam. And, if too much water is released from Lake Manitoba, frazil ice can develop on the Dauphin River — it drains Lake St. Martin into Lake Winnipeg — which contributes to ice jams and further flooding.

"There are limitations both in terms of ice restriction and safety issues that we have to deal with," he said.

Topping also said the province had no option to use the Portage Diversion beyond its maximum during the height of the flood.

"It’s unfortunate, but there was nowhere to put the water," he said.


video player to use on WFP
video player to use on WFP

Updated on Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 3:34 PM CDT: Added video

12:08 AM: Adds comments from Connery, provincial official.

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