July 21, 2017


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Now is not the time to relax

Red may have crested here but volunteers still needed to maintain sandbag dikes

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/4/2009 (3018 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg flood-protection officials are now watching the skies after the Red River appears to have crested downtown just two feet below the level of 1997's Flood of the Century.

The Red crested at 22.55 feet above winter ice levels at the James Avenue monitoring station on Thursday afternoon, only hours after Mayor Sam Katz placed low-lying portions of Winnipeg under a precautionary state of emergency.

Residents watch the Sturgeon Creek gush over a bridge on Ness Avenue Thursday. The creek has not been at such a high level since the Flood of the Century in 1997.


Residents watch the Sturgeon Creek gush over a bridge on Ness Avenue Thursday. The creek has not been at such a high level since the Flood of the Century in 1997.

The state of emergency affects properties on the river side of the primary dike, indicated in red on the map.


The state of emergency affects properties on the river side of the primary dike, indicated in red on the map.

Although sandbag dikes that had to be raised or built at 100 properties along the Red, Seine and Assiniboine rivers were completed before the crest arrived, flood-protection officials said high water levels will remain for weeks -- and it's too soon for the city to relax.

"The Red has crested, but rainfall could cause a lot of problems," Winnipeg flood-protection manager Grant Mohr told reporters on Thursday afternoon.

He explained that volunteers will still be needed to maintain or repair sandbag dikes until flood waters recede dramatically.

The city ramped down the flood-fighting rhetoric after provincial Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton told the legislature Red River levels are on the way down in Winnipeg even though they will "remain above 20 feet until the middle of next week."

The good news arrived after Katz signed a state-of-emergency declaration that granted the government additional powers to ensure flood-protection orders are carried out.

The order allows the city to move vehicles or equipment on to private property and also conduct mandatory evacuations anywhere inside the city's primary dike system, which was constructed six months after the spring flood of 1950 swamped almost one-third of the city and displaced 107,000 people.

The order will remain in place for 13 more days and can be extended another two weeks, Winnipeg emergency measures co-ordinator randy Hull said.

"Certainly, we didn't have the imminent panic of an emergency," Hull said. "What we were looking for was to have the powers to intervene if a (serious situation) did arise."

Hull said the city prefers not to force anyone out of their home.

But the power to conduct mandatory evacuations is important, Katz said.

"In the past, we have asked for voluntary evacuations, but I can tell you, the majority of times, when you ask for voluntary evacuations, no one leaves their homes and I understand why," said the mayor, dressed in the jeans and sweatshirt he wore to help sandbag along Scotia Street on Thursday morning.

As of Thursday evening, a total of three Winnipeg properties had been evacuated, either because of failed dikes or overland flooding, Hull said.

One of the evacuated properties was a Turnbull Drive home protected by a clay ring dike just north of the Red River Floodway.

City workers prepared to shore up the dike with crushed rock after fast-flowing water eroded its eastern face.

Two adults, three children and a dog were forced out, fire officials said.

Meanwhile, Christie Road in South St. Vital and several homes on Bonner Avenue in North Kildonan also remain under voluntary evacuation orders.

While no Christie Road properties are imminently threatened, the order is in place because water is on the road could pose transportation problems in the event of a medical emergency, St. Vital Coun. Gord Steeves said.

Tube dikes protecting Christie Road failed earlier this week.

Six homes on Bonner are also under a voluntary evacuation order because of the swollen Bunns Creek, Coun. Jeff Browaty said.

In the west side of the city, Sturgeon Creek is high, forcing the closure of bridges at Saskatchewan Avenue and Ness Avenue.

Motorists can use bridges at Hamilton Avenue and Portage Avenue instead.

As Winnipeg still needs to maintain sandbag dikes, the city is still asking volunteers to call and register with 311.

- With files from Larry Kusch and Kevin Rollason



State of affairs

What is a state of emergency?

In a nutshell, it's an official decree that grants the municipal government special powers that might otherwise contravene your Charter rights.

It allows the city to do whatever it needs to do in order to protect people and property.

Given the potential for abuse, governments don't like to declare states of emergency unless some form of threat is imminent. The prospect of flood waters rising faster than dikes could be built constituted precisely such a threat in Winnipeg Thursday.

OK, so what could the city do right now that it can't do under normal circumstances?

Basically, force you to leave your home in the event it becomes the subject of a mandatory evacuation order. Less dramatically, the city may also run hoses across your property or place vehicles or equipment on your property without asking you first.

Has the city declared states of emergency dur­ing previous floods?

Yes, plenty of times. Here are the three most recent examples: April 1997: The entire City of Winnipeg was placed under a state of emergency due to the Flood of the Century.

June 2005: Several low-lying properties required protection due to unusual, rain-induced summer flooding.

April 2006: The declaration affected a handful of low-lying properties during the spring flood that affected the entire Red River Valley.

-- Bartley Kives


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