The flood-swollen Little Saskatchewan River is forcing hundreds of Minnedosa students into remote learning, with their schools "two little islands right now."
Jason Cline, superintendent of Rolling River School Division, said teachers were being bused to Tanner’s Crossing School and Minnedosa Collegiate — located beside the river — so they could retrieve and prepare educational materials, as well as get any electronic devices students will need during the displacement.
"When we left school on Friday, we didn’t know we would be moving to remote learning," Cline said Tuesday. "The high school is surrounded on three sides. It is a safety issue."
The move online will offer "a bit of consistency for the kids," he said. "Next week is only four days (due to the Victoria Day holiday) and at the end of next week, we will take guidance from emergency resources and other officials to make our decision for (the week of May 30)."
Cline said the students — 385 at Tanner’s Crossing (K-8) and 160 at the high school — are used to online learning, due to earlier, lengthy pandemic restrictions.
"Our teachers are creative; we were pretty seamless for COVID," he said. "And we’ve got high school students taking care of kids, sand bagging, and delivering things."
Meantime, provincial officials will be watching the skies for more rain expected to fall the next few days in southern Manitoba.
Six more communities — including the Town of Minnedosa — had declared states of emergencies since Monday.
Jim Doppler, Minnedosa chief administrative officer, said the call was made Tuesday at 9 a.m.
"It is precautionary at this time," Doppler said. "We are ramping up our mitigation resources in anticipation of the province removing more logs from the dam (Wednesday) and also because of the forecast precipitation."
Environment Canada is predicting a weather system could bring anywhere from 20 to 50 millimetres of rain to parts of southern and central Manitoba during the next few days.
The province’s hydrologic forecast centre said Tuesday some models show it could be even worse for some areas: as much as 80 mm in a rain-snow mix accompanied by thunderstorms.
"We have no evacuations at this point. Most people want to stay put and protect their property," Doppler said. "Right now, we have no immediate imminent threat, but we are monitoring it."
Krista Powell, co-owner of Gold Leaf Boutique on Main Street in Minnedosa, spent the majority of Monday night sandbagging outside her store with members of the community. She fears the work put in may be too late to stop rising waters already seeping onto the street.
Powell said the storm drains could not keep up with the higher flows, and precipitation in the forecast has not helped the situation. On Tuesday morning, Powell was packing up merchandise in boxes and moving items to higher ground for the time being.
There are now 39 municipalities and communities across the province to declare states of emergency, as well as six First Nations. The province has issued overland flood warnings for much of western and southeastern Manitoba.
The Rural Municipality of Mountain, in the Parkland region of the province, has been particularly hard hit. Some 130 residents in Mafeking were cut off when the embankments on both of two bridges on either side of the community became heavily eroded and unsafe.
"We are making progress," Reeve Robert Hanson said Tuesday.
"The bridge on Steep Rock (River) could be open this afternoon or first thing Wednesday morning. And the Bell River bridge is not expected to be open for four or five days. Once they finish the north one, they can get to the other one."
He said it means the community’s ambulance can return to its station in Mafeking, as well as residents who had to spend a few days in hotels in Swan River waiting for a bridge to reopen.
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"Everybody here has been doing okay," Hanson said. "The store opened and they have lots of meat and everything, but they are getting a little low on bread."
The province said the forecast precipitation is expected to hit the upper Assiniboine River Basin in Saskatchewan, with more water coming into the Shellmouth Dam and more outflow possibly being needed.
It said the precipitation could also affect the Whiteshell lakes area and the Winnipeg River Basin, where already there are high water levels and flows.
Elsewhere, the province has provided sandbags, super sandbags and Tiger Dam flood barriers to protect homes and infrastructure in the RMs of Lakeshore and McCreary, Ethelbert and Clanwilliam-Erickson, and Minnedosa.
— with files from the Brandon Sun
Kevin Rollason Reporter
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press.
Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.