Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sandbags for city's south end

-- Diking planned at vulnerable homes -- St. Norbert, St. Vital houses affected

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The revised provincial flood outlook has led Winnipeg to call for sandbag dikes to rise around 26 low-lying properties in the south end of the city.

Earlier this week, provincial flood forecasters warned of a 10 per cent chance of the Red River's cresting as high as 20.5 feet above normal winter ice levels at the James Avenue monitoring station. While the Red is more likely to rise to 18.8 feet James, flood-protection engineers base preparations on a scenario in which a significant amount of additional snow or heavy rain will fall on the Red River Valley in the coming weeks.

City officials took this information and ran a simulation based on a worst-case scenario in which there is ice remaining on the surface of the river inside Winnipeg when the Red River Floodway control structure begins operating.

Based on these computations, 26 properties in St. Norbert and St. Vital will require sandbag dikes as a precaution, city flood-planning engineer Grant Mohr said Thursday.

The homes in question are on Cloutier Drive, St. Pierre Road, Forbes Road, Christie Road, Rue Trappiste, Kilkenny Drive and St. Mary's Road. City officials will visit each of these homes in person by April 5, said Mohr, who said the property owners in question are familiar with flood-protection efforts.

These properties will require a total of 32,000 sandbags, said Scott Payne, flood co-ordinator with the city's public works department. The dikes do not need to be built until the following week, as at this point the Red is not expected to crest in Winnipeg until later on in April at the earliest.

Payne said the city plans to fill a total of 85,000 sandbags by the end of next week. The additional bags will be made available to homes seeking protection from snowmelt-induced overland flooding, which remains more of a threat to most Winnipeg properties than river flooding.

Sandbags are available for pickup at city depots on 1539 Waverley St., 1220 Pacific Ave. and 849 Ravelstone Ave. West between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily. No volunteers are needed to assist with sandbagging.

As is the case during any spring flood, residents who live near rivers are being advised to move docks, gazebos, sheds or other structures away from the river's edge. All homeowners are encouraged to install or check sewer-line backup valves, as the threat of basement flooding rises when river levels are high.

But overall, the city is well-prepared for the coming flood, which is expected to be less tricky than the "ice flood" of 2009, when ice jams left officials scrambling to deal with fluctuating river levels, Mohr said.

A solid layer of ice this year means the intensity of the city's flood fight may be comparable to that of 2011, when the Red crested at 20.7 feet James and the vast majority of Winnipeggers were unaffected by the high water.

Newcomers to Winnipeg should be made aware they have little to fear from a flood, said emergency-preparedness officer Randy Hull.

Nonetheless, officials will remain vigilant throughout the spring. "Every year you do this, you refine your processes," Hull said.

Since the 1997 Flood of the Century, which saw the Red crest at a post-floodway-construction record of 24.5 feet James, there have been nine spring floods in 14 years.

Given the continuing sub-zero weather, city crews are continuing to clear snow and ice away from curb inlets and culverts. Property owners are advised to call or email 311 if they have a problem with a frozen catch basin or culvert.

Once the city is finished filling its sandbags, it will offer its assistance to other municipalities.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2013 B1

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