Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Rising rivers threaten western centres
St. Lazare, Melita on high alert
The number of Manitobans displaced by this year's flood is on the rise, as are flood waters at a critical spot in western Manitoba.
As of Wednesday, another 103 Manitobans had been evacuated from their communities, mainly as a precaution due to a loss of road access, bringing the total to 866.
About 60 Red River Valley residents were among the latest evacuees, along with another 12 in the RM of Cornwallis in the Brandon area.
The province reported Wednesday it had completed a two-day evacuation of the St. Adolphe Personal Care Home due to concerns about road access. The home's 42 residents were moved to Grunthal.
The Red River is expected to crest at Emerson April 24-27, but the province is turning much of its attention to western Manitoba, where the fight is right now.
Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said the community of St. Lazare, near the Saskatchewan border, is bracing for a crest within 48 hours. There, the Qu'Appelle River is expected to reach record levels.
The community has been busy adding additional protection to the community ring dike and sandbagging homes outside the dike.
Ricky Fouillard, chief administrator for the Rural Municipality of Ellice and the Village of St. Lazare, said eight homes are at risk of flooding, but they've been sandbagged and should be safe.
"Everybody is diked and we're kind of just waiting for the water to come up and go back down again," he said.
St. Lazare sits in a valley where the Qu'Appelle meets the Assiniboine River. The town's next test will be the Assiniboine, which hasn't crested in western Manitoba yet. The same eight homes will remain on alert.
In the legislature Wednesday, MLA Len Derkach (Russell) said residents are worried about the Qu'Appelle and Assiniboine peaking at the same time. The two streams meet near the town.
He asked Ashton if there were plans to raise protective dikes on short notice if the fortifications are overwhelmed.
Ashton assured him that a one-kilometre earthen section of the community dike had been raised. He said even with the high crest expected in the next day or so, the dikes should have four feet of breathing room.
Another area of concern in western Manitoba is Melita, which saw the Souris River crest Tuesday. No further crest is expected there unless there are heavy rains, but water levels are expected to remain high for several days.
"The construction of secondary dikes in Melita is progressing well to address sustained high river levels," said Chuck Sanderson, executive director of the Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization. "Precautionary sandbagging is also being done around the community's sewage lift station."
Premier Greg Selinger will tour the area by helicopter today, landing at Melita and Souris early in the morning before visiting Brandon.
So far, 32 communities have declared states of local emergency in Manitoba. That compares with 16 during the entire 2009 flood.
There are still 77 provincial roads affected by flood waters, with 55 closed or accessible to local traffic only. About 530 municipal roads are closed.
The Red is expected to crest in Winnipeg May 2-5. The Assiniboine could crest as early as today in Brandon and around April 27-30 at Headingley.
-- with files from Mary Agnes Welch
Flood warnings are in effect for the Souris River from the U.S. border and downstream, and for the Qu'Appelle River near St. Lazare.
Forty-two personal-care home residents were evacuated from St. Adolphe in the past two days.
The number of people evacuated as a precaution due to flooding rose to 866 Wednesday from 763 on Tuesday.
Thirty-two communities have declared states of emergency, double the number during the entire 2009 flood.
The Red River is expected to crest at Emerson as early as Sunday.
The rail line along the dikes at Emerson and Morris were to be closed Wednesday to protect those communities.
The City of Winnipeg is setting up cage-barrier dikes near Highway 75 to protect Turnbull Drive.
The Shellmouth Reservoir is being used to ease flood pressure along the Assiniboine River in western Manitoba. Since Tuesday, inflow to the reservoir has increased 75 per cent to 16,700 cubic feet per second.
Water levels at James Avenue in Winnipeg fell more than half a foot Wednesday to 18.3 feet. The forecast Red River crest level at James Avenue ranges from 20.1 to 22.8 feet.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2011 A4
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