Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hundreds of volunteers needed to sandbag homes

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IT'S time to grab your rubber boots and flex your muscles as Winnipeg needs hundreds of volunteer sandbaggers to protect homes at risk of flooding.

On Wednesday, Winnipeg's emergency preparedness co-ordinator Randy Hull said the city needs about 500 sandbag volunteers every day to help finish building dikes around 109 low-lying properties by Sunday evening. Thirty homes must be sandbagged by Friday.

In the coming weeks, Hull said additional volunteers are needed to flood-proof the remaining 450 properties slated to build sandbag dikes.

Volunteers need to phone 311 to register, so city officials can deploy them to homes in need of extra hands, Hull said. As of Wednesday, about 100 volunteers had registered through 311.

Hull said the Red River rose close to three feet at James Avenue between Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon, and will continue to rise in the coming days.

"The river is rising and it's going to continue to go up," he said. "This is still not the slug of water we'll get from Grand Forks and Fargo -- that is yet to come."

Hull said sandbag volunteers should prepare to get dirty, and wear rubber boots and bring gloves to protect their hands. Sandbags are delivered to homes already filled, so volunteers help pass the 13-kilogram bags from the front of the home to the back of the home where the dike is constructed.

Hull said St. Norbert homes along Christie Road, Cloutier Drive, Lord Avenue and Rue des Trappistes are among the first 109 that need flood-proofing against the rising river levels.

"Once we have the call out and people see that the river has risen quite a bit, people will step up to the plate and volunteer," Hull said. "The important thing is we really need people to phone 311."

More than 40 high school students from St. Norbert Collegiate helped build part of a five-foot dike around Micaela Reeve's Rue des Trappistes home on Wednesday. Her family's property backs onto the La Salle River, which has crept closer in the past few days.

Reeve said that's still nowhere near the levels the family saw in 1997 when her family used 23,000 sandbags and built a 12-foot-high dike.

"Mentally and physically, it's a lot of work," she said of sandbagging.

"I work out five days a week and I woke up this morning feeling like I got hit by a truck."

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

The latest:

 

Red River in North Dakota: The U.S. National Weather Service predicts the Red River will crest in Fargo between 39 and 41 feet this weekend, when widespread showers are expected in the U.S. portion of the Red River Valley. The North Dakota National Guard went back on duty in Fargo on Wednesday and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending an emergency-response team to North Dakota, the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reported.

 

Red River Valley in Manitoba: The Red has started to break up north of the border, but patches of ice remain. The province began preparing to close ring dikes in Ste. Adolphe and Ste. Agathe.

 

Winnipeg: The Red River in Winnipeg rose past the unofficial flood level, 18 feet James, on Wednesday. Work began on the first of 109 sandbag dikes that must be built around low-lying Winnipeg properties by Sunday. The Red River also sent about 2,800 cubic feet per second of water -- about seven per cent of its current flow -- into the Red River Floodway, whose control structures are not operating yet. There were some minor ice jams inside the city.

-- Bartley Kives

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2011 A6

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