Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Breezy Point battles with rising waters

Giant ice jam floods homes

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BREEZY POINT ROAD -- Easter Sunday was an all-night battle with flood waters for Csaba Antal.

At 9 p.m. on Saturday, while seeing out company who had enjoyed Easter dinner with Antal and his wife, he saw water starting to flow over his driveway.

By 10 p.m., Antal needed hip waders to stand in his yard. By 1 a.m., he had out his canoe and was paddling to a neighbour's house across the road to get another pump. He had almost three feet of water in his basement.

"The water came up so fast," he said.

Antal lives just upstream of the area called Breezy Point, where most of the worst flooding occurred, and just north of the little-used bridge people call Pawley's Folly, where Highway 4 crosses Breezy Point Road.

Antal's and a cluster of homes in his immediate area were flooded last Saturday when a giant ice jam dammed up the Red River.

"At midnight, it started to go," he said, meaning ice compacted, causing water to back up and breach his three-foot-high sandbag dike, and enter his house. "You should have heard the noise. (Ice) pushing down I don't know how many trees. It was like war," said Antal, who owned Selkirk Butcher Shop for 24 years before selling a few years ago.

"I ran two pumps all night, otherwise I would have had six feet of water in the basement. We would have had a swimming pool," said Antal,

His home did not suffer ice damage but there were plenty of slabs of ice as large as 15 feet across floating in people's yards that night. When waters receded, some stayed behind.

"We don't usually have ice floes in our yard," quipped Joyce Ward, pointing to one in her front yard. Ward lives across Breezy Point Road from Antal.

Ward, her husband and son, and two dogs, were rescued by St. Andrews volunteer firefighters in a Zodiac dinghy at about 4 a.m. Sunday.

Ward called the experience "horrifying." The water rose and fell several times that night. But at about 11:30 p.m., she felt the house was safe and prepared to go to bed. Then the telephone rang.

"(A neighbour) said there was a huge wall of water coming," she recalled. Their house was swamped within five minutes. They had about two feet of water in their basement.

She described the firefighters who rescued the family as "four brawny, wonderful guys. They were so kind and gentle."

A construction crew was already at Antal's place Monday and Tuesday, cutting away drywall three feet from the floor, and hauling out soaked carpets and beds and other ruined items.

For Antal and Ward, it's the third time they've been flooded in 13 years: 1996, 2004 and 2009.

Ice jams are a plague in these areas north of Winnipeg, and there's growing suspicion a contributing factor is Ottawa's decision to stop dredging the channel into Lake Winnipeg in the early 1990s. The channel has become increasingly clogged with silt as a result.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2009 A5

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