Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No end soon to water woes, minister warns

Could last until end of May

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It will be the end of May before the worst of the flood is over, Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton cautioned on Friday.

In an update that emphasized the 2011 flood is shaping up to be more prolonged and widespread than even the 2009 flood, Ashton said governments and individuals will be drawing heavily on financial disaster assistance funds for everything from repairs to roads, bridges, homes and commercial buildings for months.

"This is not going to be a flood season that is over any time soon," the minister warned.

Water levels will remain high on almost every river in southern Manitoba long after the rivers crest over the next week to 10 days, Ashton said.

"I want to stress in some areas of the province, the Interlake, you've had waterlogged areas and areas of overland flooding predating the spring. That is likely to continue," he said.

Add in high water levels on lakes, including Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg, and the impact of the spring flood will have real effects well into summer.

"Clearly, we're looking at an extended flood season whether it's the result of precipitation, overflows on tributaries and main rivers, the impacts of overland flooding.

"... Probably in late May we'll still be dealing with flood impacts," the minister said.

Flood forecaster Steve Toppping and emergency measures chief Chuck Sanderson said provincial emergency workers are spending Easter weekend shoring up three more hotspots as flooding spreads.

In The Pas area, the provincial sandbagging machine is running and sandbag dikes are being raised at the Bracken Dam on the Carrot River. Three kilometres of tube barriers and an earthen dike are also being built to hold back the surging Saskatchewan River.

Two Amphibex machines are breaking ice on the Carrot and Saskatchewan rivers.

In Manitoba's southwest, the swollen Pipestone Creek from Saskatchewan is pushing water into Oak Lake and Plum Lake, lifting already high levels on the Souris River. River water levels keep rising at the Town of Souris while in Melita, which the Souris River nearly swamped last Wednesday, newly installed flood-prevention measures are holding.

The Qu'Appelle and Assiniboine rivers have crested at St. Lazare, another western Manitoba town where emergency flood-prevention measures were installed in the last week. But the Shellmouth Reservoir, where water levels rose two feet overnight, is still a problem for St. Lazare. Measures to contain flooding will go on some weeks yet.

High winds across southern Manitoba are kicking up waves, adding to emergency woes. Winds led to the partial closure of the ring dike at Morris and a ramp has been put in place on Highway 75 at the south end of town.

The closure of most of Highway 75 between Winnipeg and the Canada-U.S. border has disrupted commercial trucking. Highway 12 has taken up some of the slack, and U.S. agriculture inspectors are expected to be on hand to check livestock shipments at the border crossing near Warroad, Minn., starting Monday.

Watching the water: Flood update

33 states of emergency, including the latest, at Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation.

76 provincial roads restricted by flooding, including 46 that are closed. 570 more municipal roads are closed.

Evacuations keep climbing, most of them precautionary, due to lack of access to roads or because of health problems. 905 people out of their homes, nearly 700 from Peguis First Nation, the hardest-hit community to date. Those evacuees are waiting it out at hotels in Winnipeg and Gimli. Most of the rest are staying with friends and family.

The Red River is forecast to crest in Emerson between April 25 and 27. The upper range of the forecast peak on the Red River at James Avenue in Winnipeg is 22.2 feet, 0.3 feet less than the 2009 crest. There will be prolonged high water levels in Winnipeg after the crest passes. The Salvation Army delivered some 250 toys to children of evacuees in Winnipeg in an effort to relieve some of the stress on worried families.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 23, 2011 A4

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