‘This is like water torture’

Family prepared to leave, but first needed to see the water approach

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HOOP AND HOLLER BEND -- When the dreaded deliberate breach failed to unleash a wall of water, the Kriski family initially breathed a sigh of relief.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/05/2011 (4285 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

HOOP AND HOLLER BEND — When the dreaded deliberate breach failed to unleash a wall of water, the Kriski family initially breathed a sigh of relief.

But the slow, creeping flow of floodwaters from the Hoop and Holler cut was even more difficult for them to take.

“I was expecting this to be faster. This is like water torture,” said Yvonne Kriski of the 340-cubic-foot-per-second flow of water that spread through her neighbourhood on Saturday at a rate of a kilometre every three hours.

Yvonne Kriski feeds goldfish, hoping they'll stay in the familiar hiding spots of the pond if flood waters overtake the back yard of their Hoop and Holler home.

At 7 a.m., Manitoba Water Stewardship carved a hole in Provincial Road 331 northwest of her home along the Elm River, the modest body of water handed the dubious task of carrying part of the Assiniboine River’s flow toward the La Salle River. At 8 a.m., the water actually began to flow through the deliberate breach.

It then sprawled out like a massive amoeba, extending pseudopods around sections of farmland and acreages before consuming them entirely and moving on through culverts or torn-up roads to the next mile section.

Like everyone else below the cut, Yvonne, her husband Bob and children Carollyn and Jeff endured a horrible week. It began with the Monday evening shock they are among at least 150 families and businesses southeast of Portage la Prairie who are being flooded out in a gambit to save 850 other property owners between Portage and Winnipeg.

The shock gave way to a task-oriented mindset. With the help of 50 volunteers, the Kriskis built a sandbag dike around their home, although they had no idea how high to build it or whether the dike would even suffice.

All of their prized possessions, including an air-hockey table and a copy of The Baseball Encyclopedia, were moved up out of their basement. Arrangements were made to send the family cat Odin to a Winnipeg home.

On what they expected to be their final night in their home of 23 years, the Kriskis registered as evacuees and went out for a Friday night meal at Bill’s Sticky Fingers in Portage la Prairie.

photos by phil hossack / winnipeg free press Bob Kriski takes his cat over the sandbag dike Saturday morning as officials started to release a controlled breach of the Assiniboine River dike.

It was the first sit-down meal they’ve had during a week of preparations to protect and finally leave their home.

Bob watched himself on CBC news and son Jeff on CTV before he, Yvonne and Carollyn turned in for one last abbreviated sleep. Jeff left earlier to crash at a friend’s place.

The slumber lasted only until the crack of dawn, when heavy machines delivered on their promise of tearing into as Hoop and Holler Bend.

“There’s not a lot of confidence they can control that flow,” Bob said in the morning, as Yvonne and Carollyn consumed a meal of buttered toast, instant coffee and ice-cream sandwiches.

“I know it’s sort of weird for breakfast, but we have to get rid of it,” Carollyn said.

When the sun rose higher and the orioles stopped singing, Bob walked over to the Elm River to check the water level. He then got in his SUV and drove around the mile roads in his neighbourhood to see whether the floodwaters were actually on the move.

From left: Yvonne, Carollyn and Bob Kriski walk to the Elm River beside their Hoop and Holler home, looking to see the flood water creeping from the cut in the Assiniboine River dike.

Bob repeated this ritual half a dozen times over the course of the nerve-wracking day, slow-moving day.

“We’re not hurrying to rush away,” he said. “There’s a morbid curiosity I have. I want to see the water.”

By early afternoon, Bob Kriski got his masochistic wish. The deliberate flood was heading directly toward his property, southeast of the Hoop and Holler cut, after provincial crews cut a second hole in Road 33 West.

“They’re trying to get it to the Elm as far as they can,” he said. “This is exactly what I was worried about. It’s coming at us from two sides and we’re being slowly surrounded.

Bob and Yvonne had prepared for this moment. They had already packed up their most crucial possessions, including their passports, income-tax returns and a favourite coffee mug.

Carollyn was heading to Kenora for a summer job. Bob and Yvonne plan to spend to spend next two weeks in a hotel, with the expenses covered by the R.M. of Portage la Prairie.

Bob Kriski studies media reports between drives to inspect oncoming flood water.

Their biggest fear is water spewing into the basement, through a geothermal-heating standpipe. But the dike was built and it was nearly time to go.

“I always hated it when I watched hockey and the players used to say, ‘This is surreal,’ ” Bob said. “Well, this is surreal.”

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Sunday, May 15, 2011 2:54 PM CDT: Spelling of Kriskis fixed. Spelling of Bob fixed.

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