Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Facing 15th flood, farmer trembles

Morris likely to be closed off as Red rises

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When Melvin Edel considers the foreboding flood predictions, his head shakes, his hand quakes and his knees ache.

"I get sick to the stomach," Edel said. "After 14 floods, and you're over 70, you've been through it all and you never look forward to another one... it's not for me no more."

Sitting in a spacious farmhouse seven kilometres southwest of Morris, Edel fiddles with a placemat at a table while his wife, Elaine, runs around the house making coffee, warming Easter cake and trying to find his flood records.

"I'm getting old, I need to get surgery on my knees, and my hand is shaking, my doctor says it's stress," Edel said.

"You need to stop stressing," his wife shouts, running around the house and keeping a positive outlook. "There's not going to be no flood."

Provincial officials disagree. Tuesday morning, the government forecast moderate to major flooding similar to the 2009 flood, depending on the spring melt.

During a flood briefing, Steve Ashton, minister of infrastructure and highways, said it is likely Highway 75 will be closed through the town of Morris, south of Winnipeg.

Highway 75 is a large contributor to the economic livelihood of Morris, said Mayor Gavin van der Linde. "It gets really quiet around here" when the town is closed in from the protective dike that surrounds the rural village.

"We've got more restaurants than a small town can generally cope with because of the highway. So when the highway shuts down, it has a huge impact on the restaurants."

Highway 75 is a major route to the United States for transport trucks. When the highway closes to protect Morris, transport trucks must detour 100 kilometres to Highway 14, north on Highway 3 and into Winnipeg.

Adding the extra hour of driving boosts operating costs to the truck industry by up to $1.5 million per week, said Bob Dolyniuk, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association.

Another cost to the Town of Morris and the province during past floods, such as 2009, was rescuing those who thought they could brave the rising water.

"We always teach and tell people, but there's always that idiot that drives down in the water in his 4X4 and gets stuck," said van der Linde. "So they'll call 911, and they'll be sitting on the roof of his pickup saying 'Help me, help me,' and I'm there going 'why?' But of course we always help everyone."

The water outside Morris can rise up to seven to 10 feet in some areas, said Edel, making farming impossible.

"We've got 4,000 acres out there between me and my boys. But when the flood comes, it's all water. You can boat across it and hit nothing under you."

"In certain parts of the province we're still dealing with damage to farms," said Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, referring to the 2011 flood. "I woke up this morning and it was -23 C, and it's going to be April next week... there were farmers seeding this time last year."

The Edels will celebrate 50 years of marriage this summer, and have been farming together for just as long. Elaine Edel said though the floods are stressful, stress is a way of teaching.

"I don't need any more teaching," her husband said. "I've had enough."

"You could learn some more," she countered.

steph.crosier@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2013 A4

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