Homeowners and officials in southwest Manitoba are anxiously watching the Souris River's surge across the border in Minot, North Dakota for signs of what may befall them when local waters crest in a couple weeks.
At a meeting Friday evening between provincial and municipal personnel, Manitoba officials told Mayor Darryl Jackson of Souris that his town will have to raise its existing dikes by 1.8 to 2.4 metres to prevent flooding.
Jackson said he's confident Souris can pull it off, but the town will need provincial expertise to make it happen.
"What we need now is a super sandbag line, probably 1½ kilometres long. We need expertise on where it should be built, so that it will be solid," he said.
There was more bad news from the province: The river is coursing faster than expected, nearly three times what was forecast at the start of the week. Jackson estimated another 50 homes in Souris would see evacuation notices, in addition to the 22 currently under threat.
The record flooding on the Souris River has devastated Minot, swallowing buildings and roads and forcing 12,000 people to evacuate from their properties. The crest there is expected over the weekend at about a metre above currently swollen levels.
The river flows from Saskatchewan — where it has picked up volume from torrential rains —down into the United States then back up into southwest Manitoba, where it feeds into the Assiniboine.
'We'll do everything we can to protect people and prevent damage from occurring'—Premier Greg Selinger
Anticipating the crest's arrival, the Manitoba communities of Souris, Hartney, Melita and Wawanesa have all asked the province for help.
Premier Greg Selinger said the government will do everything within its power.
"We'll do everything we can to protect people and prevent damage from occurring in the first instance, because that's always the best solution," he said Friday. "But if anybody does wind up sustaining serious damage, we do have the highest compensation levels in the country right now."
'They're a day late all the time'
Frustrating matters, provincial forecasts about river levels have changed a lot, making it hard to know exactly how high to build dikes. On Thursday, the province revised its prediction for the river's crest in Souris to between July 7 and 9, a week earlier than previously anticipated.
"There has been a lot of volatility in the predictions about water," Selinger acknowledged.
Jackson expressed a wish for consistent information.
"It's like they're a day late all the time. You know, Minot comes out with new figures after Manitoba has revised theirs based on the last thing they heard from Minot," he said.
Authorities are still hoping the rapid river rise in Minot will largely dissipate as it flows north across the border.