Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/11/2010 (3738 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

VICTORIA BEACH -- I came here on the weekend to see for myself the damage from the Oct. 27 storm.

I was stunned. Sickened.

I've gone to Victoria Beach (I do not have a lakefront cottage) for about 40 of my 50 years.

The storm wiped out a huge part of the shoreline and has forever changed Victoria Beach and other cottage areas in the south basin. Grand Beach got hit just as bad. Sands dunes were washed away and part of the boardwalk was destroyed.

Some describe it as the worst storm in 50 years.

The beach we go to at VB is Connaught. It faces north. It took a huge beating from the north winds and the high water. High sand cliffs have now replaced a gentle, treed slope. Twenty to 30 feet of shoreline are gone. So are the trees, big pines, birch and poplar. The lake sucked everything off the shore; sand, bushes, trees by the roots and steps. On Pelican Point, front decks on some cottages were ripped off and washed away. It's the same all along the lakefront.

Just a few months ago I was complaining about the algae in the lake.

Now this.

If this isn't a environmental disaster, I don't know what is. Remember, of everything washed away, a lot of it is still in the lake to be dumped on the beaches and in the marshes.

The only saving grace is most cottages were closed for the winter, boats put away and anything else was locked up in backyard sheds. No one was hurt.

Lots of people blame Manitoba Hydro for contributing to the storm. Since 1976 it's regulated the level of the lake, turning it into a reservoir to power its hydroelectric dams on the Nelson River. Hydro keeps the lake no higher than 715 feet above sea level. That's the maximum level determined almost 40 years ago so we have enough electricity for our block heaters and Christmas lights. The level is controlled at the Jenpeg structure and its channels on the Nelson River.

I don't think Hydro had anything to do with the storm. It's been draining the lake since July 1 at a faster rate than before Jenpeg was built.

No, the storm was caused by our weather.

A sudden plunge in atmospheric pressure allowed 90 km/h north winds to push water from the north basin into the smaller south basin, almost like a car driving over a full tube of toothpaste.

Water was squeezed south to the beaches at VB, Grand and Gimli. Pushed by the wind and with nowhere to go, the water level went up three to five feet. My guess is that it went much higher. A lot higher.

During the height of the storm the VB pier was almost completely swallowed by cyclone-like waves.

There's an amateur video on YouTube.

No, the real villain isn't the water, it's the weather.

"Climate change is something we're foolish to deny," says Dr. Al Kristofferson, who heads up the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium. "I think to a certain extent we should be able to predict even more extreme conditions."

Ominous words, for sure.

When Hydro got permission to regulate the lake, none of us were talking about climate change.

Its licence to regulate the lake is up for renewal this time next year.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca