Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Flooding's bad enough without the gawkers

Couple's sign discourages those not there to help

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Laurie Wolfe and her husband, Brian, are sick of all the people driving past their St.Francois Xavier home to gawk at the flood preparations. They have made up a sign telling people who aren't there to help to keep on moving.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Laurie Wolfe and her husband, Brian, are sick of all the people driving past their St.Francois Xavier home to gawk at the flood preparations. They have made up a sign telling people who aren't there to help to keep on moving. Photo Store

While most of us who live away from the declared emergency that is the Assiniboine River flood zone are sitting high and dry, former Winnipeg residents Laurie and Brian Wolfe are feeling wet and low.

Very low.

Oh yes, and frustrated and angry at some of us who have nothing better to do than drive by their personal disaster area.

Meet the Gawkers.

That could have been the subject line of the email Laurie floated my way Wednesday evening. Instead, she gave it a more descriptive title: "People's obsession with other people's misery."

What followed was a plea:

"As a resident of St François Xavier facing flooding, it astounds me the numbers of people flocking to our hamlet to see 'how bad has it gotten, how high is the water?' The insatiable curiosity of people's misery saddens and angers me. My husband and I are scrambling to save our home and property while people casually drive down our street gawking. Where is the humanity? We've been forced to create a sign to post at the end of our street in the hopes it shames people to not drive further. Any support in your column on this issue would be greatly appreciated."

Laurie included a photo of the sign they hope will keep the misery mongers from purposely entering the cul-de-sac they have no business on, unless...

Well, the street signs says it best.

"If you didn't bring dinner or come to sandbag THEN KEEP DRIVING."

The Wolfes have reason to be angry. And anxious.

Two days ago, with the crest nearing the area, St. François Xavier was pleading for volunteers to sandbag.

The gawkers must have taken that as an invitation, too. But they aren't the only ones who have frustrated and angered the couple.

First, though, perhaps I should introduce you more formally.

Meet the Wolfes.

Laurie was a widow when she met Brian. She was living in River Heights, he was living in Charleswood. When love blossomed, they decided to sell their homes in the city, move out to the country and grow flowers and vegetables on their acreage by the Assiniboine River.

It was there they were married last summer in what for them was an idyllic setting.

"Truthfully, when it's not under water, it's paradise," Laurie said. "It's like living at the lake."

Actually, a lake is what their property was resembling Thursday, just as the crest was expected to arrive. And personal Prairie paradise seems more like hell on earth.

"We put a lot of love and money into our property."

Now, the low-lying back quarter of their yard they had plans of raising is underwater, and the greenhouse is a swimming pool.

After rescuing as many perennials and as much of their extensive garden as they could, Laurie said they have spent nearly $5,000 on generators and sump pumps in an effort to keep their house dry. They've even flown her dad in from Thunder Bay to help because the pumps have to be watched around the clock, and Laurie and Brian have to go to work.

It's not as if the Wolfes weren't aware of the flooding of 2011, the year before they moved out there.

That was supposed to have been a one-in-300-year flood.

"And here we are three years later with another one-in-300-year flood."

She gets it no one could have done anything about the recent rains and the saturated land.

"It's been nothing short of biblical," Laurie said.

But she's also angry at the farmers in Saskatchewan she claims are "bleeding their lands" illegally and adding an unnatural element to a natural disaster.

She's angry at provincial and federal governments she contends have been more reactive than proactive. And she's angry at the rural municipality which, when she went looking for sandbags, only offered empty ones.

"You're on your own," is the message she got.

Fortunately, though, thanks ultimately to the premier of the province and the prime minister of Canada, the army was promptly called in to help sandbag. And, as it turned out, they really haven't needed sandbags, much less sandbaggers, because their house is set back high enough. They really don't need anyone to drop by with dinner, either.

Right now, like so many other Manitobans in the river's destructive path, the Wolfes are just trying to keep the water from the door. And, of course, the gawkers from their street.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 11, 2014 A4

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