Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A flood of laughter

Some dry wit... just what soggy Manitoba needs

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After enduring four floods over the past six years, Manitobans, North Dakotans and Minnesotans are sick of hearing about sandbag dikes and emergency procedures.

But the terms thrown around during a flood fight may confuse people who are new to this soggy section of the continent.

In effort to clear up any confusion, I've put together a glossary of flood-protection measures employed throughout the Red River watershed, as well as major geographical features and other terms central to the flood fight.

Please keep in mind this list is not sanctioned by Manitoba Water Stewardship, the U.S. National Weather Service or any organization with enough sense not to crack stupid jokes while people are suffering.

After visiting dozens of flood-affected communities this spring, I believe we can all use a laugh. So take a gander at my face (above to the right if you're reading online, or below to the left in print) before you read the following glossary:


AQUAFENCE: A minor superhero in the D.C. Comics universe, known for his ability to breathe underwater while attempting to sell stolen merchandise.


BACKWATER VALVE: An effective means of preventing young and creative people from leaving Winnipeg, while allowing young and creative people from elsewhere to move in.


CFS: Cubic feet per second, a measure used to determine the rate at which water destroys your livelihood.


DIKE: A flood-protection mechanism that must be spelled correctly at all times, at risk of great ridicule to the publication in question.


DUAL CREST: A mutated, two-headed rooster from The Chrysalids, a 1955 John Wyndham novel. Also a bogeyman used to frighten Winnipeg residents during the early weeks of the 2011 flooding season, when initial flow projections for the Red and Assiniboine rivers were higher.


FLOODWALL: A barrier erected around downtown Grand Forks, N.D., to keep out the evil invaders from East Grand Forks, Minn.


FREEBOARD!" Something an aging baby boomer screams out from the back of a bar in Brunkild when a classic rock band happens to be onstage.


HESCO BASTIONS: Large canvas-mesh bags that may be filled with sand to absorb shrapnel in Afghanistan, keep water out of the Red River Valley or simply give your garden that "freshly militarized" look just in time for spring.


ICE JAM: A 1990s grunge-rock concert in Nunavut, sponsored by a major brewery.


LAKE DIEFENBAKER, SASK.: The western extreme of the Red River drainage basin, named after that dog from Due South.


LAKE TRAVERSE, S.D.: The southern extreme of the Red River basin, named after country singer Randy.


LEVEE: The American name for what Canadians call a dike. When dry, this flood-protection feature may be visited by taking a Chevy, as long as you watch out for good old boys singing morbid songs under the influence of whiskey and rye.


JAMES AVENUE PUMPING STATION: A great name for a brew pub or a 24-hour gym. Interested developers are encouraged to call Ross McGowan at CentreVenture, downtown Winnipeg's development agency.


MOHR, GRANT: The City of Winnipeg's flood-protection engineer, who accurately predicted the development of ice jams in Winnipeg in early April, days before they materialized. Unfortunately not a candidate for elected office.


MORRIS, MAN.: A Red River Valley town that proudly proclaims it's open for business, 325 days a year.


MOSQUITOES: The entry following "flood" in the Encyclopedia of Manitoba.


OCTOPUS: A sandbag-filling machine that ranks as the greatest Manitoban innovation since Larry Hansen, Harry Wasylyk and Frank Plomp invented the garbage bag in 1950.


PORTAGE DIVERSION: A Sudoku puzzle, located 75 kilometres west of Winnipeg.


PRECAUTIONARY EVACUATION: A visit to a restroom before a trip down detour-prone road such as Manitoba Highway 75 or U.S. Interstate 29.


SUMP PUMP: A celebratory gesture made by raising one arm and clenching the fist after successfully removing floodwaters from a basement.


TIGER DAM: A water-filled tube used to prevent large, wild felines from threatening riverfront properties. Often, they do not work, allowing ocelots, jaguars and lynxes to overwhelm properties along the Red River Valley.


25 FOOT JAMES: Back in high school, a nickname for the most despised player on the Miami Heat's starting lineup. Also the level at which the Red River will never, ever, ever be allowed to achieve in Winnipeg.


UPPER DECILE FLOOD FORECAST: Manitoba Water Stewardship terminology for "you people are all screwed."


WALAKER, DENNIS: The mayor of Fargo, who accurately predicted the Red River would not exceed 39 feet at Fargo-Moorhead this spring, even when the U.S. National Weather Service anticipated higher crests. Also a former flood-protection official. Compare to Mohr, Grant.


WEEPING TILE: You'd cry too, if it happened to you.


WET CYCLE: A possible explanation for a decade of unusual precipitation in the Red River Valley. Also, your Harley Davidson.


WINNIPEG: A Cree and Ojibway term for "way too freaking wet, way too freaking often." Don't buy that "muddy waters" nonsense, as La Verendrye clearly had a terrible translator.

Peg City

survival guide


Three little things to keep you sane this week (special Passover edition):

1. ELMAN'S HORSERADISH-BEET RELISH: Passover would not be Passover without this fiery, made-in-Manitoba condiment, which will be slathered on at least 20,000 servings of gefilte fish in Winnipeg over the next few days. $3.90 at various retailers.

2. FRIED MATZO: This seasonal treat, little-known outside Jewish households, is a brunch concoction involving egg-softened pieces of otherwise cracker-like unleavened bread, fried up like French toast and then served with jam, honey, ketchup or hot sauce. $3.50 at Falafel Place & Deli, 1101 Corydon Ave., 489-5811.

3. YALEBURGER WITH BACON: Generations of North End residents have defied three dietary restrictions at once by scarfing down this cheeseburger, which people of any ethnic background may enjoy. $6 at Kelekis Restaurant, 1100 Main St., 582-1786.

-- Kives

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 17, 2011 A1

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


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