The Manitoba government says it will start operating the Red River Floodway tomorrow to protect homes in Winnipeg from the overland flooding that has forced at least 200 people out of their homes in other parts of the province

Because of greater than normal river flows, the floodway will start operating at 9 a.m. CT Tuesday.

Steve Ashton, Manitoba's minister responsible for emergency measures, said heavy rainfall this past weekend has led to flooding and record water levels in 13 southern Manitoba rivers and streams.

Ashton said the province will control the amount of water flowing into the Red River Floodway, which was built in 1968 to help protect Winnipeg homes and infrastructure from the river when it rises.

"Relatively minimal flows at this point in time but, again, we are concerned about impacts in the City of Winnipeg," Ashton told reporters on Monday.

The province's announcement came as the number of municipalities that have declared a state of local emergency in Manitoba's flood-beaten southwest and Interlake areas has risen to 33.

The southwestern corner of Manitoba, near the Saskatchewan border, has been pummelled by rain since Friday with amounts as high as 151 millimetres.

The Town and Rural Municipality of Birtle declared local states of emergency on Monday afternoon, adding to a list of municipalities that includes Archie, Arthur, Blanshard, Brandon (city), Brenda, Cameron, Coldwell, Cornwallis, Daly, Deloraine (town), Edward, Elkhorn (village), Hamiota, Hartney (town), Grahamdale, Melita (town), Miniota, Oak Lake (town), Pipestone, Roblin (town), Shellmouth-Boulton, Sifton, Siglunes, the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, Strathclair, Virden (town), Wallace, Westbourne, Whitewater, Winchester, and Woodworth.

​The provincial government estimates about 200 people in the affected areas have moved out of their homes.

Flood fights in Virden, Deloraine

"Over the last 72 hours we've gone into working overtime, 24/7, to get the kind of resources the municipalities need to deal with the various different circumstances they are faced with," Ashton said.

Residents in Virden, Man., have been battling the rising Gopher Creek, which runs through the town, since Sunday.

Volunteers piled on sandbags in an effort to protect houses, but some residents in homes backing onto the creek are being asked to get out, the CBC's Alana Cole reported Monday afternoon.

Virden was soaked with 140 millimetres of rain over the weekend, but not as much as Deloraine, which got a whopping 151 millimetres.

No evacuations have been called to date, but Deloraine Mayor Brian Franklin said the biggest challenge is making sure dikes on the west side hold.

"The water table's so high there's just nowhere for it to go," he said.

Outside Deloraine, volunteers frantically put up sandbags and a bladder dike at Jack Edwards's farm, much of which is under water.

"I've farmed 38 years. Never ever seen anything like this in my life," Edwards said Monday.

"Very hard on me, my wife, my father-in-law," he added. "He's out here this morning. He was crying, just wondering what's going to happen out here."

A flood warning remains in effect Monday for the Assiniboine River from the Shellmouth Dam to Brandon, as well as the Winnipeg River system and numerous creeks and rivers in the southwest.

Both Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg are under a flood watch as of Monday, and the Red, Souris and Saskatchewan rivers are under high water advisories.

In addition to the Red River Floodway, the province has also started operating the Portage Diversion, a flood control structure, on the Assiniboine River, and officials plan to open the Lake St. Martin emergency outlet on Wednesday.

Community has no road access

Floodwaters have closed roads in and out of communities such as Pierson, located in the Rural Municipality of Edward.

​Municipal Coun. Debbie McMechan said 17 rural families have been forced out of their homes, while an expectant couple from the town left as well.

"One family from the town of Pierson, because she was expecting and we have no hospital here … [she]

and her husband have gone," McMechan said.

"I believe they're trying to make it to Brandon. So we were very concerned about them."

McMechan said the local government has filed a formal request for an emergency helicopter in the event that someone needs emergency medical care.

The Manitoba government has closed numerous sections of highways due to washed-out roads. A complete, updated list of closed roads can be found on the province's 511 website.

High water in eastern Manitoba also has people scrambling to protect property along the Winnipeg River at Otter Falls Resort, near Seven Sisters Falls on the river, in Whiteshell Provincial Park.

Lori Derksen, who owns and operates the resort with her husband, said several sections of the campground are under water.

The river is higher than anyone can remember, and crews have set out sandbags and aqua dams to protect the property.

The province has also provided sandbags to 30 cottagers around Nutimik Lake, Dorothy Lake and Eleanor Lake in the Whiteshell.

Big numbers

Environment Canada says the intense storm system dumped between 75 and 124 millimetres of rain on southwest Manitoba over the weekend.

The weather agency released a list of rainfall totals, recorded between Friday and 7 a.m. Monday, in the following communities:

  • Deloraine — 151 mm
  • Virden — 140 mm
  • Pierson — 133 mm
  • Brandon Airport — 127 mm
  • Moosehorn — 122 mm
  • Hargrave — 115 mm
  • Eriksdale — 111 mm
  • Boissevain — 110 mm
  • Reston — 107 mm
  • Neepawa — 104 mm
  • Birtle — 101 mm
  • Hamiota — 98 mm
  • Forrest — 97 mm
  • Dauphin — 95 mm
  • Souris — 95 mm
  • Russell — 95 mm
  • Melita — 89 mm
  • Minnedosa — 79 mm
  • Shoal Lake — 78 mm
  • Wasagaming — 78 mm
  • Roblin — 71 mm
  • Winnipeg — 50 mm

Total rainfall for the month of June in Brandon is now 240 mm, making it second-wettest month in the city since records began in 1890. The wettest month on record was June 1902 at 258 mm.