gimli-flooding

The harbourmaster's office in Gimli is surrounded by water. ((Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC))

Recent rainstorms and gusting winds that soaked several Manitoba communities with lake water and forced evacuations have prompted worries about spring floods.

The cleanup is underway in the Rural Municipality of St. Andrews, just north of Winnipeg, where dozens of homes were evacuated earlier this week.

Reeve Don Forfar said his municipality was already saturated from months of rain during a soggy summer. Now, he worries about what the weather will bring in a few months' time.

'If [the spring melt is] protracted and dragged out and happens later, we'll be alright. But if it's a quick, fast thaw in March … good luck.' —Don Forfar

The community really needs a winter that brings only a small amount of snow and a long, slow spring melt.

"Lake levels are high, our main drains are high, our ditches are high and they are full," Forfar said. "If it were to all of a sudden freeze and get really cold, we would be in a sad state.

"If [the spring melt is] protracted and dragged out and happens later, we'll be alright. But if it's a quick, fast thaw in March … good luck."

The municipality is doing whatever it can to prepare for next spring but long-term measures, such as new dikes, are still years from completion.

gimli-flood-home

Yards and ditches were flooded in Gimli, which was pounded by gusting winds that drove water from Lake Winnipeg far into shore on Wednesday. ((Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC))

People are also cleaning up in the village of Winnipegosis where powerful winds pushed water over the banks of Lake Winnipegosis, driving it hundreds of meters into the town.

Similar scenarios played out in Gimli and surrounding RM, where many homes were suddenly turned into individual islands with water from Lake Winnipeg.

The newly-minted town council in Gimli declared the region a disaster area in order to access government financial assistance.

Directly east of Gimli, on the other side of the lake in Sagkeeng First Nation, the water forced 16 families to abandon their homes, according to Chief Donavan Fontaine.

In Peguis First Nation, flood waters threatened to wash out the main road and crews were left pumping water from 25 homes.

In Fisher River Cree Nation, 14 homes were threatened by water from heavy rains, though no homes were evacuated.

The Rural Municipality of St. Clements in Manitoba declared a local state of emergency Thursday after flooding damaged as many as 45 Patricia Beach cottages. A handful of other communities in the province.

All of those areas are in danger of experiencing estensive overland flooding if the saturated ground doesn't dry out before the frost sets in.

The frozen ground will prevent snowmelt from being absorbed in early spring, leaving the water to find other places to go.