Manitoba towns brace for raging Souris River
More than 85 homes are under a mandatory evacuation order in the Manitoba town of Souris as officials prepare for floodwaters to arrive from North Dakota.
Sven Kreusch, the emergency measures co-ordinator for Souris, said the evacuations — 65 new ones on top of 21 evacuated two weeks ago — are a precautionary measure, so crews can build up the town's dike without traffic in the area.
The people in those 65 homes must be out by 4 p.m. Monday.
"The river is quite fast, it's coming up quite rapidly, so we have a very short timeline to build what we need to build," he said.
The town has requested military help to build up dikes but has not yet received a response.
In the nearby town of Melita, preparations are also underway for the coming water and businesses are hustling to get their equipment to higher ground.
An area known as machinery row is the most at-risk for flooding and crews have been working since Saturday to build up the dikes.
The John Deere dealership is moving to the town's arena and residents in a trailer park located in a low-lying area have been given evacuation notices.
Many residents have also been taking furniture to the arena, which is filling up with chairs, tables, sofas, and anything else that can be moved out of at-risk homes.
Similar scenes are being played out in the communities of Hartney and Wawanesa, which are all located along the winding river that has, until this year, flowed placidly by.
This year, it has been bloated by heavy spring snowmelt and rain on both sides of the border. The river starts in Saskatchewan then loops down through north-central North Dakota before returning north to Manitoba and merging with the Assiniboine River at Treesbank.
It crested Sunday in Minot, N.D., reaching levels not seen in 130 years. The Souris swamped an estimated 4,000 homes and forced between 11,000 and 12,000 out of neighbourhoods nearest the river.
Prior to that, it also caused havoc across southeastern Saskatchewan, where a number of communities declared states of emergency to deal with flooded homes, businesses and crumbling roads.
Now Manitoba is bracing for its third surge from the river, which was swollen in April due to the spring melt then again in mid-June from heavy rains.
The Souris will first reach Melita, a town of slightly more than 1,000 in southwest Manitoba, between July 5-7.
Doug Calverly, who owns Doug's Mobile Service and Repair along machinery row, is staying put to try and protect his business. He is manning the pumps to try and keep the seepage at bay but doesn't really know what to expect.
"We're past worried. We're just hanging in there," he said. "Nobody seems to know exactly any numbers so we've just built for the worst and we've re-diked around the shop again."
Hartney, a village of 400 people is next before the river reaches Souris between July 6-8. The waterway is expected to rise another three metres by then.
The largest of the towns along the river's Manitoba path, with a population of about 1,700 people, Souris is home to Canada's longest cable-suspension footbridge, known as the Swinging Bridge.
But Kreusch is not sure it can be saved. The current is already too fast for crews to risk themselves to try pulling it out, he said.
He believes that once the river reaches the lowest part of the bridge, the current will rip it away.
The crest will move on to Wawanesa, a village of about 500 people, July 7-9 before merging with the Assiniboine about 20 kilometres northeast of the village.