The week of misfortune for people in southeastern Manitoba, just keeps going from one extreme to the next.

"From rolling flames to snow drifts," said Jim Swidersky, reeve for the Rural Municipality of Stuartburn.


[From] talking about evacuating people during the fire ASAP, to a matter of trying to get to those people now and get them out to keep them warm, keep them fed."


Stores in Beausejour are closed Friday because the power in town remains off since being knocked out by Thursday's snowstorm. (Ryan Hicks/CBC)

The wild week started with four families' homes being burned down in Vita as grass fires raged through the area .

Many homes along with the local school and a seniors' residence were evacuated and some area roads were closed, including Highway 503 five kilometres west of Highway 216, and Highway 201 from highways 59 to 302.

The fires also destroyed a bridge on Highway 201 that led to two vehicles crashing through the burnt-out span.

A winter storm then walloped the region on Thursday, helping to douse the fires but dumping 25 centimetres of snow and resulting in more road closures and power outages.

Now more evacuations are being done, albeit voluntary ones, in some communities in that corner of the province.

Swidersky said buses are being made available to take those who want to go, to the town hall in Vita for warmth and food.

Power out for thousands

Thousands are without power in places like Zhoda, Caliento, Arbakka, Sundown, Piney, Vita, Falcon Lake, West Hawk, Hadashville, Pointe du Bois, Beausejour and La Broquerie.

"I know in the Falcon Lake-Hadashville-West Hawk area we've got at least 2,400 customers affected at the moment," said Hydro's Scott Powell.

Slick roads

Careful driving out there.

The highways in southeastern Manitoba were extremely slippery on Friday morning with officials reporting snow-covered and icy conditions.

The wind is also making for poor visibility by blowing around the snow.

The worst hit areas appear to be the Trans-Canada Highway, where travel is not advised east of Steinbach, as well as Highways 11, 15 and 44, all east of Winnipeg to the Ontario border.

Highway conditions

Check highway conditions here. 

"[There's also] around 400 in Pointe du Bois and Bird Lake and approximately 1,400 in the Vita area right now. I think we've probably got another 450 in Piney as well."

The problem is the ice in some places is nearly eight centimetres thick on the lines.

In other areas, lines have been brought down by fallen trees that were blown over by the wind or brought down under the weight of heavy snow.

Hydro poles and even hydro towers are even down in some places.

Len Chopp, a bison farmer who lives south of Vita, has been without power since Thursday. He is keeping his house warm with a generator but he doesn't have running water and worries about his freezer full of bison meat.

"It's been an experience," he said.

Hydro crews scrambling

Phones were also down in much of the area for a time.

In some cases MTS, the phone company, was able to restore some service using power supplied from back up generators. However phones in some communities, which rely on regular power supplies that were knocked out, may not be restored for a day or so.

In Beausejour, the hospital had to run on a generator because of sporadic power outages.

Powell said crews are scrambling to get power restored.

"We're doing everything we can. We've got about 150 extra staff in the area coming in from Brandon, Winnipeg, the Interlake to assist our district people," he said.

"And our guys are doing everything they can to get that power restored as quickly as possible."

About 165 new hydro poles must be replaced and crews can't get the power back until all those downed and damaged poles are moved out and new ones put up.

The community of Beausejour declared a state of emergency, due to the lack of power, around noon Friday. The condition was lifted a few hours later when electricity was restored.

Hydro's Glenn Schneider said crews will be working well into the weekend.

He also advises people to not go to their cottages in the Whiteshell area this long weekend.

Power crews also had to face poor driving conditions, just to reach areas that need repairs.

Neighbourhood lake in Gimli

The whacky weather isn't confined to the eastern part of the province.

In the Interlake region, in Gimli, gusting winds were packing enough weight to push water from Lake Winnipeg into the streets.

Clogged sewer drains kept the temporary inland lake on Fourth Avenue from going anywhere for some time.

Crews were working to pump the water back into the lake and clear the drains of leaves and sand. No homes were threatened, according to a spokesperson from the Rural Municipality of Gimli.

It was expected the street would be clear by evening.


Fourth Avenue in Gimli was submerged at midday Friday, after strong winds blew water in from Lake Winnipeg and clogged sewer drains kept it there. (Stephen Charaton)