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Residents steel once again for surging Red

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Hoping for the best but preparing for the worst -- that's the attitude among homeowners whose properties have been tapped by the City of Winnipeg to get ready to sandbag.

The city released its spring-flood forecast Thursday, outlining a worst-case-scenario plan based on the Red River reaching 20.5 feet above normal ice levels at the James Avenue monitoring station. Based on this prediction, 26 properties, mostly in the St. Norbert area, will be advised to build sandbag dikes.

When Helene Hoffer and husband Michael bought their Kilkenny Drive home in 2003, a spacious property with huge bay windows overlooking the Red River, they were warned by a city official that the low-lying, riverfront property is susceptible to flooding.

"We were told it had only happened once in 250 years, and that was in 1997. Before that, they never sandbagged," Helene Hoffer said Friday. "We thought, what are the odds it'll happen again? Since we've had it, we sandbag every two, three years."

The Hoffers have not yet been told if they'll need to sandbag, but she thinks it's only a matter of time.

Their property has a man-made dike to protect it, and Hoffer said it does the trick with some sandbagging to protect the home from the rushing Red. Still, she said, it doesn't make it any less nerve-wracking watching the water levels rise every spring.

"It's really annoying," Hoffer said. "I sure hope we won't have to sandbag again this year, but it's part of what you have to do to live on the river."

Barbara Langtry is still waiting to hear if some extra muscle will be enlisted to ready her river-facing home for the melt. Her street, St. Pierre, was among six others identified by the city as being in danger of flooding.

"It's a waiting game at this point," Langtry said. "But I can at least say that in the past, the city has been good about letting us know and getting us ready."

Kathy Cano thinks the city might call for sandbagging of her Cloutier Drive home. Cano said in the past, the sandbags have served as more of a precaution than a necessity.

"My parents have been in this house since '77 and we've had to sandbag a lot. But the only time the water has ever reached the sandbags was in 1997," Cano said. "I'm not too worried. We're high enough and we'll have enough bags and help if need be."

City officials will visit with the owners of the 26 properties by April 5.

katherine.dow@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2013 B3

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