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Biggest flood ever

Water covers unprecedented area of the province, say flood officials

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Water, water — almost everywhere.

It may not be the most severe or dramatic, but the flood of 2011 is turning out to be the biggest, the province said Saturday.

This year's flooding covers an unprecedented area of the province from the Saskatchewan border to eastern Manitoba, and from The Pas, south to the U.S. border, flood officials said at a press conference Saturday.

So far, there are 693 evacuees, 41 provincial roads closed and at least 500 municipal roads closed because of high water levels, said Steve Ashton, minister of infrastructure and transportation and the minister responsible for emergency measures.

"Conditions are changing rapidly," said Steve Topping, Manitoba Water Stewardship's executive director.

Crews are working around the clock monitoring river and stream levels, Topping said. There are 11 crews checking flows right now when normally, at this time of year, there are just three, he said.

South of Winnipeg, Highway 75 to the United States border was still open Saturday. In Winnipeg, gradual increases in river levels were expected throughout the day. On the mighty Red, officials expected levels would be maintained at 20 feet at James Avenue by today.

The biggest concern right now is the Assiniboine River.

Floodway operations were being adjusted Saturday to accommodate increased flows from the Assiniboine, Topping said.

Overnight and this morning, there has been "significant activity" along the river, and "significant use" of the Portage Diversion to protect communities, he said.

Flows were recorded that have not been seen since the flood of 1976, Topping said. That year, the Assiniboine experienced its worst flood on record.

A high-water advisory issued for the Assiniboine River downstream of Portage la Prairie.

The province was keeping a close eye Saturday on an ice jam on the Assiniboine River near Poplar Point. No homes were at risk but officials were considering using the Amphibex to break the jam located near the Poplar Point Colony.

Friday night's dump of snow, meanwhile, wasn't expected to alter predictions for when rivers will crest but will affect how long it will take for water levels to fall.

"The snowfall in southern Manitoba is not expected to affect crest predictions," said Chuck Sanderson, executive director of the Emergency Measures Organization. "It could provide for a longer period of flooding."

And it will affect the province's pocketbook.

"This flood will have a significant impact on flood disaster assistance," Sanderson warned.

To try and keep a lid on the damage, 24-hour patrols are monitoring communities with ring dikes.

The province said Saturday it has delivered a sandbagging machine to Peguis First Nation.

Of the 693 evacuees in Manitoba, 576 are from the reserve north of Winnipeg. The sandbagging machine is in addition to provincial flood barrier tubes, trailers and pumps that are also in the community to support flood-fighting efforts.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

BY THE NUMBERS:

693

evacuees

41

provincial roads closed

500

municipal roads closed

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

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