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Ochre Beach residents are 'thankful everybody got out'

Residents repair cabins after huge ice surge

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OCHRE BEACH -- Lakefront residents of Ochre Beach took solace on Sunday the massive ice floes did their destruction during the day and not at night.

Several homes on Dauphin Lake were heavily damaged on Friday by the fast-moving ice, which was pushed up on the shore by winds hitting 90 kilometres per hour, leading some in the community to thank their lucky stars even in the face of millions of dollars of damage.

"We're fortunate in a way that it happened at 6 p.m. and not in the middle of the night. People would have been sleeping. They would have been hurt," said Clayton Watts, the deputy reeve of the Rural Municipality of Ochre River.

"In one home, the bedroom was pushed right through the hallway and the bathroom was pushed to the other side of the house. If you didn't hear it coming, there would have at least been some injuries. We're thankful everybody got out."

Even if Doug Davis had been in a deep sleep, he's confident the noise from cracking ice would have woken him up. "You could hear the ice coming in. You could see it coming up the windows, then the windows broke and the ice started piling in. It filled up a couple of bedrooms upstairs," he said.

The 16-year resident estimated the damage to the house he shares with his wife, Elaine, at about $200,000. Insurance won't cover a penny of his repair costs.

"I'm going to fix it, but it will come out of my own pocket," he said.

The fixing began Saturday with the plumbing, most of which was destroyed. "There was water all over the place, he said.

Of the 22 cottages that sustained heavy damage, 12 or 13 were destroyed, Watts said.

The massive cleanup started on the weekend as local volunteers arrived by the dozens with backhoes, bulldozers and wheelbarrows -- helping to chip away the huge ice floes.

While they worked, they kept a cautious eye on the lake.

A spokesman for the province said strong and gusty southerly winds from Sunday afternoon through to this afternoon present a high risk of shoreline ice pileup on Lake Manitoba, Dauphin Lake, Lake Winnipegosis and Lake St. Martin. There is also a "moderate to high" risk on windward shores on Lake Winnipeg and Pelican Lake.

"Ice is beginning to break up and melt on most of Manitoba's large lakes. High winds can move broken or weakened ice around the lake, creating a risk of ice pileup on windward shores. Residents are reminded to remain alert to weather conditions and to monitor news media for warnings," the spokesman said.

It is too early to provide a damage estimate in Ochre Beach, located about 20 kilometres east of Dauphin, because ice is still being cleared away from inside and around houses.

The ice floes also wreaked havoc with the power supply.

Glenn Schneider from Manitoba Hydro said five poles were down and 10 cottages were without power because of the ice damage. The poles will remain disconnected until the damage is dealt with, he said.

Unfortunately, the locals know far too well about the power of Mother Nature. Some of them had only recently returned to their homes after extensive flooding in 2011.

Lorne Perche was in Winnipeg on Friday evening when he got a call his seasonal cottage at Ochre Beach had sustained major damage.

He arrived on Saturday to find ice inside his cottage from the floor to the roof. The floor had caved in because of the weight of the ice.

Perche said they have experienced lake ice before, but never like this.

"It's very unusual ice," he said. "It's all crystallized and shards came crashing through the windows."

He said because the cottages are seasonal, there will likely be no financial compensation.

"Our place is repairable, but it's going to cost quite a few dollars. I'm retired now, but I might get another job to help pay the bills."


-- with files from John Woods

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 13, 2013 A3


Updated on Monday, May 13, 2013 at 6:38 AM CDT: replaces photo, adds slideshow

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