Flooding spells headaches for truckers

This year's flooding in southeast Saskatchewan has devastated farmers and homeowners, but it's also causing headaches for truck drivers.
A waterlogged section of Highway 56 north of Indian Head, Sask., started to collapse earlier this month.

This year's flooding in southeast Saskatchewan has devastated farmers and homeowners, but it's also causing headaches for truck drivers.

More than a dozen highways are overwhelmed by water and have been closed, forcing truckers to take lengthy and expensive detours.   

Sampling of highway closures as of 5:30 p.m. CST on Thursday:

  • Highway 1 from Sintaluta to Whitewood
  • Highway 9 from the U.S. border to Highway 18
  • Highway 18 west of Estevan to Highway 350
  • Highway 36 from Willow Bunch to Highway 13
  • Highway 47 south of Estevan to U.S. border
  • Highway 48 from Kennedy to Kipling
  • Highway 56 from Indian Head to Katepwa
  • Highway 350 from U.S. border to Highway 18

"Honestly I can't even remember the last time actually something like this happened, other than the winter time when it slows down with the blizzards and everything else. Flooding, I've never seen flooding like this before," said Rick Burdon, who's been compelled to take the long way to Winnipeg. Highway 1, the Trans-Canada, is closed from Sintaluta, 85 kilometres east of Regina, to Whitewood, 60 km from the Manitoba border.

Burdon said he'll need "lots more fuel" for the voyage.

Trucker Matt Makofka, who's also Winnipeg-bound, said the additional gas for the detour-laden round trip would cost him $500 for his semi.

"I was going to take 1 to Winnipeg, but now I'm going to go southeast on 33, then I'm going to cut across on 13 and then come north on 10," he said of his route.  

It's not only interprovincial transportation that's feeling the effects. Cross-border shipping from North Dakota through the border post at North Portal was shut down Thursday due to floods, while highway closures have blocked access to the border posts on Highway 47 south of Estevan, Highway 350 south of Torquay and Highway 9 at Northgate.

The Canada Border Services Agency warned travellers and truckers to "verify travel plans prior to departure as highway closures throughout the affected area are impacting access to several ports of entry."

Highway 56, which runs north off the Trans-Canada, is just one of the roads closed during the last couple of months in the rural municipality of Indian Head.

"Every phone call usually brings in another call of a road partially washed out or a culvert gone, so it's not great," said Lorne Scott, the municipality's reeve. "We've ordered over two dozen 'road closed' signs this year."

The province says there is no firm timeline when highways will open again. There's still a backlog of roads needing repairs from last year's flooding.

There's also no estimate yet of what all the repairs will cost. The Department of Highways and Transportation said it has to wait for the water to recede.