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Peak in Brandon expected today

Should be at or above levels from 2011

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Water rushes over First Street North Friday. The city shut it down Friday after the water level reached 1,179 feet above sea level.

JILLIAN AUSTIN / BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Water rushes over First Street North Friday. The city shut it down Friday after the water level reached 1,179 feet above sea level.

BRANDON -- The Assiniboine River is expected to peak as early as noon today -- a week earlier than originally thought.

The city is now bracing for the river to reach or surpass 2011 flood levels.

"It's happening a lot faster than we ever thought, but we're ready," said Mayor Shari Decter Hirst during a media briefing at city hall late Friday afternoon.

The river had risen by two feet during the day Thursday, and is expected to rise another three feet by today. Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation said the Assiniboine River is expected to peak in Brandon at 1,182.7 to 1,183.1 feet above sea level. The 2011 peak was 1,182.89 feet.

Brian Kayes, the city's director of risk and emergency management, said the peak won't be short-lived as forecasters were predicting.

'It's happening a lot faster than we ever thought, but we're ready' -- Mayor Shari Decter Hirst

Following the initial peak, officials expect the water to recede slightly for a few days, peak again and then remain high for a few weeks.

"The river is likely to settle into a level of something around 1,181 perhaps for a week or two," Kayes said.

The city had to close First Street North early Friday when the level reached 1,179 feet.

"So we need to get the level down below that before we can regain access to that transportation system," Kayes said. "(We're) looking at a more extended period in terms of having transportation woes in the city.

"We have a couple more things we need to do, but certainly we're heading in the right direction," he said.

"We are concerned, we're hoping we don't have to evacuate, because we have six children that we'd have to stick in a hotel," said Deanna Peters, who lives on Stickney Avenue. "We're hoping and crossing our fingers that they get it figured out."

Alan Nickel lives on McDonald Avenue, not far from the flooded Wheat City Golf Course. Nickel's backyard backs onto the Assiniboine, and over the past few days he has seen the water rise significantly.

"This is only the second time in my lifetime I've seen it this high," Nickel said.

Meanwhile, some 65 volunteer sandbaggers rallied to protect a home on Rosser Avenue East.

The property owned by Dave Barnes flooded back in 2011.

"It's a bit of a freaky déj vu," Barnes said, as he took a quick break from tossing sandbags. "I never thought I would repeat it."

Barnes was grateful for all of the people who volunteered their time to help him out.

"This is a big event, and once again it's catching us really by surprise," he said. "We weren't expecting anything like this, and it's got to have the city scrambling in 100 directions Oh my, I can't even imagine the stress on the officials of our town.

"But you know, when push comes to shove, the Brandonite shows up."

The Brandon Police Service is urging people to access the city through either the west (Highway 1A through Kemnay) or east (Highway 110) entrances.

Pre-evacuation notices were to be delivered Friday evening and today to areas north and south of the river, and evacuation centres have been set up at both the Assiniboine Community College North Hill Campus and the Keystone Centre. However, the city stresses an evacuation is not anticipated.

In the event evacuation is necessary, the city would broadcast a notice through the alerting siren, media, its website and door-to-door visitations.

jaustin@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2014 A4

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