Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Delta Beach residents steel for grief

Evacuations may come to cottage country

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DELTA BEACH -- This spit of sand squeezed between Lake Manitoba and the Delta Marsh is used to water but nothing like this.

The beaches are gone, swallowed by the lake. As this community's 100 permanent residents wait for the inundation, they've already taken steps to sit out the flood.

People haul furniture to upper floors and give away the contents of their freezers. They expect if they're evacuated, power cuts will follow.

Ken Kucharsky, 39, his wife Sherry and their son and daughter took the heartbreaking step of registering for voluntary evacuation Monday, one of 12 families to register from Delta Beach, a Canadian Red Cross volunteer said late in the afternoon.

"Look at how high the water is," Kucharsky said, as his sister take a visitor out on the family's lakeside deck. Water laps at the first of two five-foot sandbag dikes built one behind the other, double lines of insurance between the lake and their home.

Uncertainty and impatience stalk the family.

"We're getting ready but we don't know when. Nobody's told us anything but we're getting prepared -- it's coming," Kucharsky said. "When we get the call, we're going to leave."

His sister, Donna Kucharsky, said her brother and his wife laboured day and night over the winter to build a family room at shore level; if the dikes fail, they'll lose the first floor of their home.

Cottages are submerged at the beach community's entrance. Once a sleepy fishing village, the beauty of the place, with its sand cranes and laid-back lifestyle is one of Manitoba's best-kept secrets. It's a piece of paradise for the growing number of retirees who have moved from Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie over the last decade.

They wonder what will be left after the flood.

"I think the worst is yet to come," said Karen O'Reilly. "We have a week after it crests in Brandon."

The Assiniboine crested Monday in Brandon. O'Reilly has a five-foot sandbag dike in the back of her two-storey home and a causeway built of sandbags and plywood to bridge overland water that's flooded her driveway. A north wind could send waves six feet high sweeping over the top of the tallest dike, flooding homes up and down the beach.

A south wind blows the water away; a north wind drives it to shore. "I'm worried about the wind and the waves," said Larry Muirhead. "The water piles up in this south basin."

Next to the threat of wind and waves, roads are the challenge in this low-lying ground.

The main street, Hackberry Avenue, is nearly swamped by water backing up from the marsh.

Muirhead's property is fast being engulfed by the marsh. He jokes the rising overland flood that is swallowing up his street is also turning his home into a watery isthmus.

His driveway is dry only because he dumped 400 bags of sand over it Monday.

A bridge that spans a narrow cut in land and divides Delta into the East Beach and West Beach is inches from being engulfed by the marsh channel off the lake.

That's the third and final challenge that could trigger an evacuation sometime over the next week or two.

Once the bridge is under water, people on the East Beach will have to leave, even though many hope to stay.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2011 A3

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