At least seven Manitoba communities have now declared a state of emergency because of flooding as heavy rains continue.

At least seven Manitoba communities have now declared a state of emergency because of flooding as heavy rains continue. 

"The worst isn’t over yet," said Morden Mayor Brandon Burley, who declared a state of emergency following a special council meeting Saturday afternoon. The city of Morden issued roughly 50 evacuation notices to residents because of substantial overland flooding that is damaging homes and vehicles throughout the city. 

"It’s not really isolated at this point," Burley said. 

The southern Manitoba community is one of several areas that have been among the hardest hit with another Colorado low system that brought more rain starting Friday night. 

Areas in and around Morden, Portage la Prairie and Selkirk were pummelled with 20-30 mm, while Winnipeg had already received about 25 mm as of early Saturday afternoon, according to Environment Canada. 

That rain could turn to snow Sunday morning before it tapers off by evening, Environment Canada meteorologist Shannon Moodie said. 

"Which I know nobody wants to hear about, but we could have a few flurries. But then it will warm up in the afternoon," she said. 

The federal agency renewed its rainfall warning on Saturday morning, predicting an additional 10-25 mms of rain over southern Manitoba, and between 20-40 mms in northern Interlake regions. Heavy rain had started overnight as part of a Colorado low system, the third consecutive weekend of excessive rain or snow in Manitoba. 

The rural municipalities of Morris, Montcalm, Cartier, Fisher, Headingley and Ritchot previously declared local states of emergency, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk said during the legislature’s question period earlier this week. An overland flood warning is still in effect for much of southern Manitoba from the province’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre. 

The accumulation of snow and rain from previous storms caused Morden’s Deadhorse Creek to spill its banks, washing out a bridge that was the only route out of a neighbourhood west of the creek. Emergency responders built a temporary exit and the city issued the evacuation notices, but some residents stayed, only to call for help later, Burley said. 

"We need co-operation from the public. Stay off the flooded roads. We have vehicles breaking down because they flood out, and in areas where we need access to, we have trucks that are driving down flooded roads, creating lakes that are flooding homes out. So we need people to listen to emergency personnel," the mayor said. 

He’s asking residents to shelter in place, saying some people are getting too close to the water. 

"I know there’s a certain amount of drama and excitement associated with it, but we do not want drowning situations or rescue situations on top of this." 

Provincial help hasn’t been needed yet, Burley said. He thanked volunteers and emergency personnel for their ongoing work to sandbag and help prevent more flooding. The community hasn’t experienced a flood like this in recent years. 

"This would be a first in most people’s recollection. Certainly in the past 40 years we haven’t seen something like this. It’s substantial, and depending on what the weather does over the next 24 to 48 hours, if we get the precipitation they’re calling for, we’re going to be in an even worse position, so we’re trying to get ahead of that," he said. 

The devastating impact of this rain is undeniable, but there is some good news on the way. 

"Luckily after this system moves out, it looks like we’re getting into normal temperatures. Dare I say that the long-range forecast has 20s (C) in it, so if that pans out I think we’ll all be really happy. I think we could all use some sunshine and some warm temperatures," Moodie said. 

"You can really see the impact of the rain, and there’s just so much that people really have to be aware of right now," especially when travelling on highways and in communities affected by flooding.

Katie May

Katie May

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.