Flood fight continues as water recedes
Damage compounded by weekend’s heavy winds
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Water is finally receding in some hard-hit parts of Manitoba but the fight is far from over, as Premier Heather Stefanson promised help after a helicopter tour of flood-ravaged communities Sunday.
On Sunday at 10 a.m., Stefanson, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk and NDP Leader Wab Kinew got an aerial tour of flooded communities, flying over Morris, Emerson and Peguis First Nation, among other areas.
“For all of those who have been negatively impacted, we will be with you every step of the way,” Stefanson told reporters in Winnipeg after landing around 3 p.m.
“These are very difficult times for farmers, for families who are going through this, and we will continue to help them through various programs.”
While Stefanson said the province would work “very closely” with farmers in the coming weeks, she didn’t offer any details on what kind of programs or aid would be provided.
Piwniuk suggested disaster financial assistance will be made available to communities and farmers.
Still, it will be weeks before infrastructure repairs can begin and some evacuees can return home.
“We’ve only seen an inch raise in the last 24 hours, which tells us that the crest is very near,” Ritchot Mayor Chris Ewen said Sunday.
His municipality is one of 33 Manitoba communities that have declared local states of emergency due to overland flooding and road closures.
Ritchot residents make up 107 of the province’s roughly 2,500 evacuees, 2,000 of which come from First Nations communities.
A “demon current” has ripped up roads in Ritchot, meaning some gravel lanes might need full replacement, Ewen said, adding fierce winds Friday scattered “atrocious” levels of debris across the area.
“You would see things from full size oak trees to chicken coops on the side of the road — that’s how strong that wind (was),” Ewen said.
He expects it will take two to three weeks for the overland flooding to dissipate.
The province will continue to assess flood-hit zones, Piwniuk said Sunday.
Piwniuk noted changes that could be made to prevent such overland flooding include raising Highway 23 outside of Morris. He said the federal government needs to fund changes in the Interlake area, where hard-hit Peguis First Nation is located.
First Nations and nearby municipalities would also need to be consulted, Piwniuk said.
“When it comes to anything with floods, you work with the whole region so you don’t cause impact to some other community,” he said.
Late Sunday, the province issued an overland flood warning for the Parkland region.
Dauphin Lake’s level will likely “exceed flood stage” Monday and Tuesday, and remain above flood stage until the end of next month, according to a provincial flood bulletin released Sunday.
Its peak level is forecast at 858.4 feet.
Flood warnings for the Winnipeg River and Whiteshell areas are still in effect.
Swan River received the most rain this weekend — 62.3 mm — with Dauphin in second at 34.4 mm.
Still, the town of Swan River is in good condition, according to Mayor Lance Jacobson.
“There’s no damages in and around town that we’re experiencing,” he said.
But, residents can’t travel north due to highway closures and bridge washouts. Nearby Camperville and Mafeking are isolated because of flooded bridges.
Residents of Swan River experienced power outages Friday. Manitoba Hydro’s online map showed 28 outages — affecting 587 customers — Sunday afternoon.
“Over the past couple of days, wind has been more of an issue for weather-related outages in the province, such as trees falling on lines,” Bruce Owen, Manitoba Hydro’s spokesperson, wrote in an email.
The Crown corporation is eyeing flooding on the Bell River north of Swan River. It’s a risk to several poles, Owen said.
Between 10 and 15 millimetres of rain could hit central Manitoba Tuesday night, said Environment Canada meteorologist Eric Dykes.
There’s a chance a mix of rain and wet snow could hit the province’s southern half beginning Thursday night.
The forecast could change closer to the May long weekend, Dykes noted.
The Red River peaked at Ste. Agathe, St. Adolphe and the Red River Floodway inlet on Friday and is stable or declining in areas upstream of Winnipeg. The river will likely remain high into June, according to a provincial flood bulletin.
Both the Portage Diversion and Red River Floodway are in operation.
Meanwhile, Morris residents are preparing a flood of 2022 block party for the holiday long weekend. Cheryl Demarcke, one of the event’s organizers, said it’s to bring the community together after two years of pandemic and to show outsiders the town of Morris is OK.
“I’m absolutely fine in Morris, there’s no risk to my home,” Demarcke said. “I can get in and out of Morris. We’re not an island, we still have an exit.”
The town is surrounded by dikes; three of four exits are blocked, but the one remaining open isn’t at risk of closing, Demarcke said.
Trips outside the community take longer — a short trip to St. Jean Baptiste now takes roughly 40 minutes, Demarcke said — but “it’s just inconvenient, it’s not life or death,” she said.
The Sunday block party is touting lawn games, street hockey and free hot dogs. People can donate money, which will go towards the purchase of party food from local businesses, Demarcke, the president of Morris’s chamber of commerce, said.
She noted local businesses have suffered due to flooding and a lack of drive through traffic.
“The people (in and around Morris) that are struggling are rural, outside of all our little community dikes,” Demarcke said.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.