December 11, 2018

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'Horrible. Nothing left'

Twin Lakes Beach residents return briefly to their flood-ravaged homes

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/6/2011 (2733 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

TWIN LAKES BEACH -- The first residents were allowed to return briefly to their homes in Twin Lakes Beach on Friday.

They came. They saw. They left.

They saw the front halves torn off of homes and cottages, sand piled up where floors once stood and gaping holes where picture windows once captured stunning sunsets.

They saw trees ripped up by the roots. And, water everywhere.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/6/2011 (2733 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

LEFT: The interior of a water-damaged cottage through a knocked-out wall.

LEFT: The interior of a water-damaged cottage through a knocked-out wall.

TWIN LAKES BEACH — The first residents were allowed to return briefly to their homes in Twin Lakes Beach on Friday.

They came. They saw. They left.

They saw the front halves torn off of homes and cottages, sand piled up where floors once stood and gaping holes where picture windows once captured stunning sunsets.

They saw trees ripped up by the roots. And, water everywhere.

Bottom left: Residents are ferried out of the area after retrieving valuables from their cottage.

Bottom left: Residents are ferried out of the area after retrieving valuables from their cottage.

Reporters were told residents — escorted to their properties in the RMs of St. Laurent and Woodlands to see the damage first-hand and retrieve personal belongings — were too emotionally devastated to describe the disaster scene.

In the coming days, more property owners will be notified when they can be led in for a short stay. In the Twin Lakes Beach area, it's too dangerous for them to go in themselves. The main road here is washed out and the flood water is too deep.

All told, about 700 properties have been affected in the RM of St. Laurent. Properties have been assigned four levels of destruction, with Level 4 being the worst. A 120-member Manitoba Urban Search and Rescue Team, part of the Fire Commissioner's Office, is assessing the properties.

As crews temporarily stabilized the most severely damaged structures, teams escorted property owners in to safely salvage personal belongings.

One homeowner, standing on the flatbed of an amphibious vehicle headed back from the disaster zone, uttered just three words to describe what he saw.

ABOVE: Structural engineer Luke Chaput examines a  collapsed cottage.

ABOVE: Structural engineer Luke Chaput examines a collapsed cottage.

"Horrible. Nothing left," the man said, before turning his face away.

High water levels and strong winds whipped the normally placid and shallow Lake Manitoba into a monster on May 31. That storm caused widespread destruction to properties in the Twin Lakes, Laurentia and Johnson beaches along the southeast basin of the lake.

Residents were forced out in a rush — and they hadn't been allowed back until Friday.

"We've taken pictures of it," said Woodland Reeve Don Walsh, who was part of the media escort.

"But it's really not the same," he added.

Bottom right: Flooded area at Twin Lakes Beach South.

Bottom right: Flooded area at Twin Lakes Beach South.

He said there's nothing he can say to prepare homeowners.

"They have no idea. They have to see it for themselves to realize... there are areas here that are never coming back, where people will never build again," said Walsh, adding flooded areas may not even drain by winter.

In some areas, homes and cottages looked fine. But with no road access, it's impossible to predict the future.

In other areas, structures were ripped off pilings or sawed in half by wind and waves.

All that's left on one lakeshore lot is a bright red roof, twisted into the sand, a wreck of broken timber poking from underneath.

Everywhere lawns were pools, lanes were stream beds. A late-model car was in lake water up to its hubcaps.

A home under construction, wrapped in a Tyvek membrane, was surrounded by water. A two-foot-high sandbag dike protecting it.

"We're seeing devastation, a natural disaster in these areas, and a number of the cottages and homes that are completely destroyed," said Tobin Praznick, manager of rescue operations for the Manitoba Urban Search and Rescue Team.

Praznick said the closest comparison to Twin Lakes Beach is the wreckage from a tornado in 2007.

"We did see that F-5 in Elie but we've not seen destruction like this caused by water," he said. Crews haven't even attempted getting to some homes because of the risk involved.

"There are multiple homes we've declared unsafe. We're not in a position to put our rescuers at risk. We have to focus on the home you can get in," Praznick said.

The best the recovery crews can do is shore up the worst-hit properties with temporary pilings.

"We're trying to support some of these cottages and homes to get homeowners in here to collect some of their belongings," Praznick said.

It's a recovery operation. For some homeowners, it's a final farewell. "It's unbelievable. You'll be overwhelmed by what's in there," Woodlands community economic development officer Lana Cowling-Mason warned.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Alexandra Paul

Alexandra Paul
Reporter

Alexandra is a veteran news reporter who has covered stories for the Winnipeg Free Press since 1987. She held the medical beat for nearly 17 years, and today specializes in coverage of Indigenous-related issues. She is among the most versatile journalists on the paper’s staff.

Read full biography

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