Rain forecast threatens to add to flood stress

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For Manitobans grappling with the impacts of swollen rivers and rising lakes — many locked in a seemingly endless personal property fight against flooding — there are more dark clouds on the horizon.

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For Manitobans grappling with the impacts of swollen rivers and rising lakes — many locked in a seemingly endless personal property fight against flooding — there are more dark clouds on the horizon.

An incoming weather system is expected to bring another 20 to 40 millimetres of rain to much of southern and central Manitoba over five days, starting Friday night.

The province’s hydrologic forecast centre says some localized areas could receive even larger amounts, with some models calling for as much as 70 mm. In southeast Manitoba, there is a possibility of thunderstorms that could bring a total of more than 100 mm of rain in the coming days.

Brynn Kaplen photo / Free Press files Allison Baker-Thiessen said she was told Thursday she’d be allowed to bring in the 11 volunteers she found willing to help mitigate flooding at Nutimik Lodge. By Friday morning, she had heard otherwise.

It is unwelcome news to those already engaged in floodwater fights.

“The problem we have as cottagers, residents, campers, lodge owners, is the fact that they haven’t even tried to sandbag it. They haven’t tried to build up the road. They haven’t done anything to allow access so that we can keep maintaining our lodge and our cabins.” – Allison Baker-Thiessen

In Whiteshell Provincial Park, the owners of a lodge say, after agreeing to allow volunteers to stay at their resort to help keep flooding at bay, the province has reversed that decision, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Allison Baker-Thiessen, who runs Nutimik Lodge with her husband, Harry Thiessen, said she was told Thursday she’d be allowed to bring in the 11 volunteers she found willing to help mitigate flooding at the lodge. By Friday morning, she had heard otherwise.

The province decided it would no longer allow them to bring in volunteers to stay at the resort, Baker-Thiessen said, because there was a low spot by the park entrance that’s covered in water.

It’s not a dangerous road to travel, she said, and the couple use the road regularly.

“The problem we have as cottagers, residents, campers, lodge owners, is the fact that they haven’t even tried to sandbag it. They haven’t tried to build up the road. They haven’t done anything to allow access so that we can keep maintaining our lodge and our cabins,” Baker-Thiessen said.

“When they told me I couldn’t have volunteers, I fell to my knees again. It’s like, why are you doing this to us?” – Allison Baker-Thiessen

However, a spokesperson from the province said the lodge was told only staff could stay on site, asking the business provide it a list of such staff for future wellness checks — and the lodge went beyond that request.

“Nutimik Lodge expanded their call for volunteers without provincial support, and have been reminded of the rules around the evacuation order,” the spokesperson said in an email.

“While it remains dangerous to have volunteers in the evacuation zone, there is a significant amount of provincial support in place through things like dikes and Tiger Dams (flood mitigation tubes).”

Baker-Thiessen and her family took over the business five months ago. They “sold everything” to make that dream happen, she said.

Now, she fears they won’t even get the chance to fight to save their business from rising waters.

“When they told me I couldn’t have volunteers, I fell to my knees again,” she said. “It’s like, why are you doing this to us? Let us fight. It’s not unsafe where we are, where people would drown. That’s not the case at all. We’ve just got to protect our perimeter, and we’ll be OK.”

Whiteshell Provincial Park is under a mandatory evacuation order and an expanded area in the northern side of the park is under closure.

The evacuation order has affected about 600 cottages, six businesses and 500 campsites.

The forecast precipitation is expected to affect the Whiteshell area and the Winnipeg River Basin upstream in Ontario, the province said Friday afternoon in a news release: “Very high flows and water levels are being experienced on the lakes and rivers in this area, and the expected precipitation will cause them to rise further.”

Several communities throughout the province continue to be impacted by high water levels, the province said.

“Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization continues to work with all local authorities and emergency management partners to provide guidance and support for response and recovery activities. At this time, 38 states of local emergency have been declared,” it said. “EMO continues to work with Indigenous Services Canada in supporting ISC-led response measures with First Nation communities.”

The forecast precipitation is also expected to affect the upper Assiniboine River Basin in Saskatchewan and increase inflows into the Shellmouth Dam.

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca

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