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Higher than a deer's eyes

St. Lazare battles flooding again

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RESIDENTS in the RM of St. Lazare are feeling anxious as floodwater swamps their community for the second time in less than four years.

Connie Chartier-Tanguay lives in the town of St. Lazare, and her mother, Suzy Chartier, lives on the outskirts of the community, about 330 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. While the town is surrounded by dikes that keep most of the floodwater out, homes on the outskirts such as Chartier's have been severely affected by the flooding.

Chartier's property has been hit even harder than it was in 2011. The family has been measuring water levels around the home according to the height of their lawn ornaments as they did in 2011. They document the flooding day by day with photos and video posted on Facebook.

"Yesterday, the water level was about a foot high, at the nose of the fawn," Chartier-Tanguay said of the deer ornament on the lawn Tuesday. "Today the water is above the fawn's eyes, about an inch-and-a-half higher."

Chartier-Tanguay said she and her brothers are working around the clock squeegeeing their mother's basement to try to avoid the water damage they saw in 2011.

They squeegee constantly, taking 15-minute breaks to rest. But by the time those 15 minutes are over, water has already seeped through the basement walls again.

"We are a little sleep-deprived," she said. "In 2011, we lost everything that was in the basement, so we haven't really replaced much except for the hot-water tank, furnace and sump pump that was down there."

In 2011, Chartier's property sustained more than $50,000 in damage. Since then, the government has reimbursed her with one cheque for $623 for flood relief.

"Even though they told us they were going to take care of us, we don't believe them," Chartier-Tanguay said. "We haven't heard anything (from the government). If we didn't have friends in Round Lake, Sask., we wouldn't know what's going on."

Chartier-Tanguay said neighbours in Saskatchewan have been notifying them of when to prepare for surges of water. They've been working to prevent flooding since June 30 when a hydro pole broke down in the area, leaving them without power for about 24 hours.

That was the catalyst for the string of events that have led to worse flooding in the area than in 2011, said Chartier-Tanguay.

Since the RM of St. Lazare is located near two rivers, the Qu'Appelle and the Assiniboine, they have felt double the effects of flooding, said local insurance broker Bev McLennan.

"We have double the water and it's insane, it really is. But it looks like this in pretty much all of the south of Manitoba. You could understand this in the spring of the year, but for heaven's sake this is July."

McLennan said her insurance firm, Andrew Agencies, has already received about a dozen flood-related complaints, but because flooding isn't covered under private home insurance, they've begun sending out letters of denial.

"A lot of the same people phoning in already know we can't help and are going through the motions from 2011," said McLennan.

Residents must have a letter of denial from a private insurance agency before they can apply for government relief from an Emergency Measures Organization office.

"It's really stressful because there's absolutely nothing worse than telling someone in their hour of need that we can't help them," said McLennan.

St. Lazare Mayor Martin Dupont has confirmed water levels "are definitely higher than they were in 2011."

No one has been evacuated from St. Lazare, but the flooding has yet to crest near the RM and the extent of the water's damage and danger has not yet been felt.

The flooding near St. Lazare is predicted to crest next Monday, with peak flows forecast between 25,000 and 28,500 cubic feet per second, the provincial government says.


-- with files from the Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2014 A4

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