The river level in Souris, Man., is doing something it has not done in weeks — going down.

Residents and flood officials in the town of about 1,700 people southwest of Brandon are breathing easier after the crest of the swollen and surging Souris River passed through overnight.

mi-sourisrivermap

The Souris River starts in Saskatchewan, then meanders through North Dakota before heading north into Manitoba and joining the Assiniboine River at Treesbank.

Their hard work to protect the town by building dikes to heights never seen before along that river appears to have paid off.

The crest was about a metre lower than originally forecast. Flood officials downgraded the forecast on Tuesday, citing minimal rain in the Souris River basin and warm weather in recent days.

This is the third crest the flood-weary town has experienced since April.

The water will likely stay high for days to come as the river slowly subsides, so the dikes will be closely monitored to ensure they can hold up for the long term.

The Souris River — which winds through Minot, N.D., south of the border before turning north and entering Manitoba — broke through that city's dikes last month and flooded more than 4,000 homes. A quarter of the city's population — nearly 12,000 people — was forced from their homes.

Manitoba's Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said he's optimistic Souris will escape this wave unharmed. The town is prepared to handle the flood water thanks to the "heroic efforts" of volunteers and the Canadian Forces, he said.

About 400 Canadian Forces reservists have spent the last few days frantically sandbagging in preparation for the crest and have since gone home.

Floodway to be activated


The Red River is also on the rise again.

The river has been rising for the past week because of heavy rainstorms in North Dakota. In Emerson, the town just at the Manitoba–U.S. border, the water has come over the banks at the town's golf course, said Mayor Wayne Arseny.

"All the creeks and tributaries are backing up so it affects any farmland where the farmers are already seeded. Unfortunately, it just keeps coming," he said.

Arseny said the situation isn't as bad as in western Manitoba because people along the Red River are used to dealing with flooding.

In Winnipeg, the Red River Floodway is going to be put into operation to keep levels down. The floodway gates will be operated in the next day or so, officials said.

"It's a real achievement that we've been able to see these dikes raised up," Ashton said. "It's now a question of watching it as it comes through and staying vigilant to protect those dikes."

This has been one of the worst years on record for flooding in Manitoba. Almost 3,000 people are still out of their homes as lakes and rivers continue to rise.

This year's flood is expected to cost at least $500 million.

The town of Wawanesa is next in line for the high water on the Souris River.

Mayor Bruce Gullett said dikes around the town are more than two metres above the water level, which provides plenty of room for the crest.

With the peak levels being lower than originally forecast in the town of Souris, Gullett isn't worried.

"There was that thought at some point, but then you look at what happened in Minot, yeah, it looks like we were overprepared but better than not," he said.

"The only unknown, I guess, is if the high water level continues for a significant period of time or if we get some additional rain or something that will extend that out. Then I'm sure it will put them [dikes] to the test."

Gullett said two homes are most at risk but are well diked.

The crest is expected to reach Wawanesa, about 50 kilometres east of Souris, before Friday.

With files from The Canadian Press