Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cautionary tale in Breezy Point

Swollen river claims home; second property feared lost

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BREEZY POINT -- Under a state of emergency and suffering the first house lost in Manitoba's flood fight, residents in the RM of St. Andrews stood calm in the face of a swiftly rising Red.

But on Friday night, another residence appeared to be in danger of becoming the second house lost to the rising flood waters.

Chuck Sanderson, executive director of Manitoba EMO, said Friday the house confirmed as inundated was not diked despite the municipality offering sandbags and other equipment to all property owners in the area.

"Many of the citizens took advantage of that. This particular residence didn't have a dike around it," Sanderson said.

A dike only started being built at 11 p.m. Thursday, using water-inflated tube dikes.

"That was a response to a critical incident," Sanderson said. "An individual should start diking around their home well in advance of critical times."

The rural municipality declared the state of emergency before dawn on Friday, hours after ice jams in the Breezy Point area suddenly forced the swollen Red River even further over its banks, washing out a bridge.

"It's more preparatory, rather than necessary. It grants us the power to do things such as access property," said Reeve Don Forfar. "This ice jam may continue to get worse. The river is rising (here) several inches an hour."

Late Thursday night, ice that had piled up against the bridge at Highway 4 began to move. The thick, jagged slabs then flowed downstream, piling up against ice already choking the Red River around McIvor Lane, where a number of homes were threatened. Emergency crews worked through the night, trying to save one especially at-risk home with tiger dams -- water-filled tubes -- and pumps. By 4 a.m., they thought they had won the fight.

"We had it looking pretty good," said Darcy Hardman, emergency measures co-ordinator for the RM of St. Andrews. "But then we had another surge of water."

That 6 a.m. surge burst over the tiger dams, sending water flowing into the basement of the riverside home.

Five hours later, the flooded house sat empty, still circled by the bright-orange dam. Clandeboye firefighters stood ready to evacuate other residents who might be at risk.

On Friday night, Hardman said emergency crews had just plucked a couple from the northernmost house left on Breezy Point Road following last year's buyouts of the most flood-prone homes.

Hardman said the couple thought they'd be OK, but then got worried as the water kept rising.

"She was moving some of her furniture higher up," he said.

"It sounds as if the water is getting quite high -- I'm going there now to see it. I suspect there may be some water damage to their house."

Earlier in the day, many of those neighbours didn't seem too worried about the water.

Some walked by with dogs, pointing at the chunks of ice floating gently past the road. Others gathered on mucky roadsides to trade the news the night had brought.

Directly across Breezy Point Road from the inundated home, Don McDougall fired up an aluminum motorboat to putter from his home, which was surrounded by water, to the road.

But though the night had turned his lawn into a lake, McDougall said previous years had proved the home could make it through even higher water. "Something happens every year or two," he said. Emergency workers had been keeping an eye on everyone since then, he added.

The Breezy Point area was hardest hit by ice-jam-induced severe flooding in 2009.

Despite the recent regularity of floods, some area residents were surprised when the Red surged. "We didn't expect this to happen so quickly," said Ervin Kaziw, who was worried about the fate of his motorcycles stuck in a garage on the other side of the flooded bridge.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the turgid river in the RM of St. Clements, crews worked furiously to finish shoring up a 660-metre berm -- a temporary dike -- to hold water back from six properties just north of East Selkirk.

A number of homeowners praised the RM for keeping a close eye on flood forecasts and taking quick action to ward off surging water.

 

-- with files from Bruce Owen

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 9, 2011 A3

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