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Storm's distressing aftermath

Lake Manitoba's southeast shore latest to be hit

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ST. LAURENT -- One cottage had seaweed clinging to the ceiling fan.

Many cottages have had their footings knocked from beneath them, buckling floors, or had just one or two footings knocked out so that they sit off kilter.

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Those are some sketchy details from the first people allowed to return to homes and cottages pummelled by flooding during last week's storm, on the southeast side of Lake Manitoba.

The worst is yet to come, when people are allowed back to Twin Lakes Beach, the hardest-hit area.

The province allowed the first owners of 715 evacuated properties to have a look at the devastation, starting with Johnson Beach, the northernmost cottage and farming area flooded last week.

Media access was very restricted by security blockades at over a half a dozen locations around the affected area.

One property owner, Garth Holmes, said in a telephone interview he returned to find his dike broken apart and debris everywhere but the sandbag dike around his home held. He did not want to talk long as return visits are limited to between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Another cottager at Laurentian Beach, who had special permission to look in two days ago, noted many cottages were knocked off their pilings, or had their pilings knocked out from under them.

"There are instances where rocks were picked up and tossed inside homes," added Earl Zotter, reeve for the RM of St. Laurent.

Brian and Myrna Oliver were allowed back into the Twin Lakes Beach. Brian had to return to get some medicine and was allowed just 10 minutes before he had to leave again.

"Our boathouse was destroyed and it was made of cinder blocks. We lost 35 feet of sand beach in front of our place. It washed away," he said.

Their fence was also destroyed, as were about five metres of landscaped lawn. The couple retired to the cottage two years ago. Fortunately, the sandbag dike around their home, that they spent more than a week building and fortifying, held.

Myrna recounted last week's storm. "I had all the ingredients out to make banana bread and all of a sudden someone came to my door and said to get out. By the time I left, the water (outside their sandbag dike) was over my knees."

Lake Manitoba flooding has inundated up to eight square kilometres past the lake's shoreline, said Zotter.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Lake Manitoba higher than forecast; record levels expected in future

LAKE Manitoba is expected to hit 816.5 feet in July -- almost a foot higher than previously forecast, Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick told the legislature Monday.

The higher level is due to heavy rains in May that soaked the Prairies and renewed flooding worries along the Souris and Assiniboine rivers.

The province had originally forecast Lake Manitoba would crest in mid-June at 815.8 feet.

The forecast means the lake is expected to reach a record high this summer. During the flood of 1955, Lake Manitoba reached 816.3 feet above sea level, according to Manitoba Water Stewardship.

The lake hasn't come close to that level until this year.

More Manitobans were forced from their properties on Dauphin Lake and Ochre River on the weekend because of flooding, Melnick said.

Higher levels are expected on the Saskatchewan River, which drains Alberta and Saskatchewan, where it flows into Lake Winnipeg near The Pas.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2011 A3

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