Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Winnipeg needs more volunteer sandbaggers

Third-worst flood in 100 years, officials say

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The Red River Valley flood of 2009 will go down as the third-worst deluge of the past 100 years, provincial officials predict.

Winnipeg is calling for volunteers to heave more sandbags, water is lapping at the Morris ring dike and property owners in St. Andrews and St. Clements are assessing the damage to ice-battered or inundated homes, cottages and trailers.

The Red River is expected to crest in southern Manitoba at a level surpassed only by the Great Flood of 1950 SEnD which swamped most of Winnipeg SEnD and the Flood of The Century that swallowed Ste. Agathe and Grand Pointe in 1997.

Between St. Jean Baptiste and the Red River Floodway inlet, this year's crest is expected to be six inches higher than the 1979 flood previously considered the third-worst flood of the past century.

The 2009 flood has already proved disastrous, as almost 300 properties north of Winnipeg were damaged or evacuated earlier this week and the Red River continues to swallow up farmland and highways south of Winnipeg for the third frustrating time in 13 years.

Outside the Red River Valley, ice jams, overland flooding and run-off from tributaries have combined to produced unprecedented flooding across south and central Manitoba, as forecasters are now predicting later crests and an extended flood season.

Manitoba Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton warned it's too soon for flood fighters to let their guard down. "It is now the third-worst flood of the century and not far off the scale of the second worst flood of the century."

The Red River is now expected to crest at Morris on Saturday, followed by Ste. Agathe on Monday. But it will crest in Winnipeg even earlier due to an unfortunately timed swelling of the Assiniboine River, the Red's most significant tributary, as well as run-off from smaller tributaries and a rapid early-week snow melt.

The Red is now expected to crest on Thursday or Friday at the James Avenue monitoring station at a level of 21.8 feet, which is just 2.7 feet below the 1997 flood level.

As a result, Winnipeg flood-protection officials are calling on 500 to 600 volunteers to build new sandbag dikes or raise existing dikes along the Red River north of The Forks as well as on the Seine and Assiniboine Rivers.

Thirty new properties need to be sandbagged on Scotia Street in the North End and West Kildonan and 17 require protection on Elmwood's Glenwood Crescent, along with 10 Seine River properties and four or five along the Assiniboine River, city flood-protection manager Grant Mohr said.

Another 40 properties need to raise their dikes as they city recalculates flood-protection measures to cope with ice-free conditions, added Mohr, noting south Winnipeg homeowners must leave dikes in place even though the threat to their homes has probably passed.

"There's no doubt, when it comes to Mother Nature, dynamics are changing all the time," said Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, who praised emergency personnel as well as citizens who continue to heed calls to sandbag.

Sandbaggers willing to volunteer today are asked to call and register with 311. Operators will tell volunteers where and when to report and what to bring with them.

North of Winnipeg, where ice jams and fast-rising floodwater prompted a mandatory evacuation of almost 300 properties at Breezy Point, Netley Creek, Petersfield and the St. Peters and Peltz Road area of St. Clements on Sunday, some residents have been able to return to their homes.

South of Winnipeg, the Red River has already become a lake and ring dikes are either closed or partly closed at Emerson, Letellier, St. Jean Baptiste, Morris, St. Adolphe, Ste. Agathe, Rosenort, Aubigny and Riverside.

Significant flooding is also expected on the Souris River in southwestern Manitoba as well on the Fisher River in the Interlake.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2009 A4

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