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Life goes on as usual... sort of

Mundane business during waiting game

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NEWTON -- In the flood zone, all they can do is wait.

They've moved their belongings from the basement to the main floor. They've protected their homes the best they can.

Along road after road, southeast of the cut in the dike at Hoop and Holler Bend, the modest homes sit surrounded by sandbags or tube dikes in the brilliant Monday sunshine.

Waiting for the water.

Retiree Fred Slukynsky, who lives on an acreage along Grabber Green Road, just a couple of hundred metres north of the Elm River, is resigned to the creeping lake that may swamp his yard.

A Free Press reporter and photographer have interrupted him. He isn't feverishly sandbagging or moving belongings to higher ground. The Armed Forces installed a tube dike around his home a few days ago. And the freezer that once sat in his basement is now the "kitchen island" his wife has always wanted, he cracks.

No, he's seated on an old Allis-Chalmers riding mower, trimming his spacious rural lawn.

"I need to cut the grass. It's just getting too long," Slukynsky says.

Today, he plans to start digging up the garden. It doesn't matter that the soldiers who set up the large black water-filled dike circling his house told him the flood waters could be lapping against it in three or four days.

"Life goes on," Slukynsky says.

That seems to be the attitude of many around here. Some are hanging around home for another night or two. Some have already left but come back every so often to check to make sure everything is all right. Security is posted at a crossroads near the flooded areas to keep outsiders away. The Mounties are also on patrol, checking on things.

Robert Stanger, who works at an electrical service and rental business in nearby Portage la Prairie, said if the province compensates people like it says it will, they'll be fine.

By Monday afternoon, the water was only 50 metres from his driveway.

"In the grand scheme of things, we're good. "Slave Lake put it all back into perspective," Stanger says, referring to the fire that razed much of the northern Alberta community over the weekend.

He launches into an angry tirade, though, over news reports quoting Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton as saying all homeowners in the danger zone have been given detailed survey elevations on which to build dikes. "Ashton is a liar," Stanger says firmly.



He and others say no such information has been forthcoming. They also maintain nobody visited them to warn about the artificial flood, and they've relied on media for most of their information.

They do say, however, the military and provincial and municipal authorities -- along with friends and neighbours -- have done yeoman service in helping them protect their homes.

Canada Post employee Mitch Thibodeau, who lives down the road from Stanger, has already been forced from his home. It's surrounded by water.

The four-foot wall of sandbags keeping it from being flooded was built by friends, neighbours and strangers from as far away as Winnipeg. "It was overwhelming support," he says.

Meanwhile, folks who live close to the Hoop and Holler Bend cut are taking some comfort that the volume of water flowing from the breached dike may not be as great as feared.

Ashton said Monday water pouring out of the controlled breach is flowing at about 400 cubic feet per second and has flooded more than five square kilometres of farmland.

The province is saying the controlled release from the Assiniboine River will likely not exceed 1,000 cfs in the coming days.

The province will maintain that flow for the next few days and only increase it if there are further stresses on dikes along the river west of Portage -- there were 17 weak spots along it Monday -- and on the Portage Diversion, which saw 32,900 cfs flowing through it Monday.

That's generated hope many of the 150 homes in the area the province said might be flooded by the artificial breach can be saved.

"We have a glimmer of hope," says Yvonne Kriski, who lives three kilometres east of the cut.


-- with file from Bruce Owen


Flood warnings have been issued for the Assiniboine River at all points downstream of the Shellmouth Dam; streams and rivers in the Dauphin Lake Basin; streams and rivers east of the Duck Mountains; the Souris River from Melita and all downstream reaches; Pipestone Creek, all reaches; Oak Lake and Plum Lakes; Plum Creek to the Souris River (including the town of Souris); and the Qu'Appelle River in the St. Lazare area.


Water levels decreased in many western points on the Assiniboine River Monday, including at the Shellmouth Reservoir at St. Lazare and Sioux Valley.


Flows on the Assiniboine River crested in Brandon at 37,100 cfs. It is estimated that flows on the Assiniboine River at Brandon will be sustained above 20,000 cfs for approximately two weeks.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2011 A4

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