Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Crisis, co-operation recalled a year later

Souris River's flooding made for 'year from hell'

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SOURIS -- It was one year ago Bill and Sheila Kirkup's century-old home was surrounded by 3.5-metre super-sandbag dikes, threatened by the ever-rising Souris River.

The river swallowed up the elegant landscaping on the Kirkups' sloping lawn, and the couple had to be evacuated from their home of 50 years.

"It was just a year from hell," Bill Kirkup said. "The biggest fear of it all was the fear of the unknown. You knew you were going to get it, you didn't know how much and you didn't know when... We knew we were in trouble."

The Kirkups' basement flooded, but all in all, the home managed to escape relatively unscathed. The couple were evacuated from their home for a total of six weeks.

"We're feeling very thankful that we came out of it the way we did, but I wish it hadn't happened either," Sheila Kirkup said.

Standing in their backyard, the couple reflected on just how high the water came.

"It's hard to believe," Sheila said. "Even when we look out now, it's hard for us to believe that the water was right up to the underside of the bridge."

The flood of 2011 lasted for months, creating a stressful and uncertain time for the people of Souris.

"It just went on and on and on, and you just wondered if there was ever going to be an end," Bill said. "We can't believe that a year ago... it was a sea."

The Kirkups now have a lot of work to do in their yard, starting on the higher level. Building up the land and replanting grass is first on the list. The lower level of their property is still covered with silt.

Souris Mayor Darryl Jackson reflected on how the community pulled together in a time of crisis.

"It shows the level of volunteerism that you can count on when there is an emergency taking place," Jackson said. "We had great support... when we needed lots of volunteers from out of town, people came to help."

Remembering the water levels of last year, Jackson said: "You almost had to see it to believe it.

"It certainly just feels like your imagination is playing tricks on you," he said.

Meanwhile in Wawanesa, the village's mayor is also commending the work of the countless volunteers last year.

"It was a pretty remarkable time," Mayor Bruce Gullett said. "The amount of co-operation that you get from pretty much everybody in the village, and the volunteers that come forward to do more than they were asked to do, without hesitation."

The village is still working on cleanup efforts after being hit hard by the flood.

"We're still working at getting our park back in order," Gullet said. "It was under water for three months or so. We had a lot of silt that we had to clean out of there."

The village lost quite a bit of riverbank and continues work on the dam.

"The lasting effect is our steel bridge, the one exit to the southwest, is still out of service, I guess maybe forever," Gullett said.

Wawanesa now has a two-kilometre permanent dike in place to protect the village.


-- Brandon Sun

Focus shifts to

cleanup, rebuilding

SOURIS -- The flood of 2011 has left a lasting impact on the town of Souris, with efforts now shifted to cleanup and restoration.

"Everywhere you look where we had water, it still looks like the water just left," said Sven Kreusch, the town's emergency measures co-ordinator.

"It all takes time."

The historic swinging bridge will not be up again this year. It had to be cut last summer out of fears flood waters would rip the suspension bridge's anchors out of the earth and take part of an essential earth dike with them.

"We've got an engineering firm working on it, and we're hoping that early next summer... it'll be up again," Mayor Darryl Jackson said. "I'm hoping for July 1 (2013)."

One home was lost in the flood, which Kreusch expects will be torn down.

Countless other homes along the river have sustained damage to their property lines.

Permanent dikes will continue to be worked on near the Souris River and Plum Creek.

"We need to build up around the water plant and the sewage-treatment plant... but then some private homes as well, if they want," Jackson said.

The east side of Victoria Park was heavily damaged by the flood waters.

"We have a crew working down in the park. They've been scraping the sludge and silt that laid in there when the water was sitting on it for so long, and replacing it with black dirt," Jackson said.

The playground equipment had to be removed, as the insurance company considered it contaminated, Jackson said.

The west side of the park, which includes the campground and swimming pool, will be open as usual this summer.

"That side is pretty good, but the east side, where the picnic area and playground were, that's the real attack point right now and they're doing a good job," Jackson said.

"We're waiting to see what trees are going to leaf out or not... We don't want to take them down too quickly, but I'm sure there's going to be a lot of bare spots."

The Victoria Park restoration project is asking for input on what residents would like to see in the plans to revitalize the park.

"We are asking for the public's help, what they would like to see in the future," Kreusch said. Visit to weigh in.


-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 18, 2012 A15

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