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Ste. Agathe falls victim to the flood

The Cree called it Miscousipi, Red Water River, and warned early settlers of its hidden capacity for destruction. The river flooded in 1826, forcing the complete evacuation of the 10-year-old Red River colony. But most settlers refused to give up. Winnipeg, the city they built on the Red River's banks, has braved disaster again and again – in 1950, 1966, 1979, and again, dramatically, in 1997.

"What I saw I couldn't believe. There was a wall of water coming from the west, through the fields and over the tracks," said Jeannot Robert the day his community of Ste. Agathe fell victim to the flood.
Another resident Peter Derkson was there with him, one of the last 37 people to evacuate Ste. Agathe in the early hours of April 29. On CBC Radio he talks about what it was like watching his town fill with two metres of water.

Ste. Agathe is on elevated land; it didn't flood in 1950, so the town doesn't have a ring dike. Five days earlier, residents of Ste. Agathe were ignoring evacuation orders and working madly to sandbag their community. Everyone was on edge, but it seemed like they were going to make it. Two temporary dikes were built - one along the river and one running up Main Street. But the water doesn't come from the river; it comes from the west, overland.
• Ste. Agathe is a community of about 500 people, 25 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

• Derksen was one of 37 essential and military personnel who remained in Ste. Agathe to monitor the dikes on a 24-hour basis.

• Gale force winds from the southwest helped the water breach its barrier sometime after midnight.

• Ste. Agathe's temporary dikes didn't fail. Water flowed up and over a CN rail line which was expected to protect the town's west side.

• One naval officer suffered hypothermia during the evacuation when his truck was trapped in high waters.

• The town of Rosenort had a novel way of protecting its ring dike from the pounding waves. Volunteers strung wooden railway ties together with steel cable, then put the ties just outside their dike like a floating fence. Straw bales were thrown between the dike and the ties to help dampen the wave action.
Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Broadcast Date: April 29, 1997
Guest(s): Peter Derksen
Host: Peter Gzowski, Maureen Pendergast
Duration: 3:33

Last updated: May 3, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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