WEATHER ALERT

Communities brace for the breach

Sandbags scarce east of Portage la Prairie as residents rush to protect properties from coming water

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Communities east of Portage la Prairie worked to shore up their dikes and fill additional sandbags on Saturday to prepare for a potential surge of water.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/05/2011 (4277 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Communities east of Portage la Prairie worked to shore up their dikes and fill additional sandbags on Saturday to prepare for a potential surge of water.

Residents in Oakville scrambled to fill thousands of additional sandbags after the town ran out. Town council member Dale McLeod said about one dozen homes still need to build dikes to protect from a deluge of water from the Hoop and Holler breach. The water is expected to hit by Monday at the earliest, McLeod said, and volunteers are pitching in and working as quickly as possible to shore up the dikes.

A sandbag machine was expected to arrive in Oakville Saturday afternoon.

Postmedia TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Michael Slegers and dog Queenie walk on his flooded driveway in the RM of St. Francois Xavier Saturday.

“We’re running out of bags,” McLeod said. “We’ve been going through about 100,000 (bags) a day.”

McLeod estimates about 70 homes finished building sandbag dikes earlier in the week when the province announced it might be forced to breach a dike west of the small community.

Bob Moore said he feels frustrated his Oakville home is facing an onslaught of water due to the deliberate breach. About 50 volunteers helped to build a dike around his home Saturday morning, forming a long assembly line to finish the work before they moved on to the next home in need. Moore said he’s received little information about how high he needs to build the dike to protect his property.

“I’m a little disappointed because I think some of us are being sacrificed for others,” he said, before hurrying off to join the assembly line of baggers.

Others breathed a sigh of relief that they could stop wondering when the province would make the deliberate cut.

“I don’t think people are as nervous as they used to be,” said Oakville resident Roy St. Lawrence. “It’s a relief they let the water out this morning.”

Elsewhere in the province, communities watched as water levels dropped. Water is still rushing overtop St. Francois Xavier resident Michael Slegers’ driveway, but the longtime resident said the level has dropped one inch from Friday.

His neighbour credits part of the drop to the breach and said the province had to do something to save as many homes as possible.

“It’s the only thing they can do,” neighbour John Stewart said. “It will be good for some people and bad for some people.”

Slegers decided against sandbagging his home, saying the river level was much higher on his property in 1976. He’s packed a camper full of canned goods and supplies just in case he and his dog Queenie need to get out in a jiffy.

“Where we’re standing (the water) was up to your knees,” Slegers said, recalling how high the water was on his front drive in the 1976 flood. “If that happens, it’s time to move.”

In Elie, residents on the north and south sides of town worked on finishing building their dikes. Properties to the south are at higher risk, since a berm and the railway tracks give north-side properties additional protection.

Tom Harvey’s south-side home is one of the few that hasn’t finished building a dike. On Saturday, Harvey had a small stack of sandbags on his front driveway. He said the town is out of sandbags and he won’t be able to get more until Monday.

“I wasn’t going to do it,” Harvey said. “I was hoping for the best.”

While Harvey just started work on a dike with few sandbags on Saturday, other residents in a lower-risk end of town worked to finish theirs.

Shaun Solnik opted to build a dike even though area officials said he had a choice not to. Solnik said he hopes no water comes his way.

Water is expected to reach Elie in four or five days.

“They’re all precautionary,” said Wally Kroeker, who has helped sandbag area homes over the last few days. “It’s my hope this is all for nothing.”

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

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