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Red River, 1997: A state of emergency

The Story

"There is the potential for the entire valley to be evacuated," announces Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon on April 22. Filmon declares a state of emergency for all towns along the Red River. As many as 20,000 people may be affected. Three thousand have already fled. CBC TV talks to Mary Sawatzky of Dominion City, Man. as she's packing up her belongings. Emerson to the south was the first town to be evacuated. Members of the Canadian Forces arrived there yesterday, and now only police, military and essential crews remain. The crest is expected to hit this border town in two or three days. Many residents wonder what they'll be coming back to once it's all over. But people in towns like Emerson are the lucky ones. CBC reporter Reg Sherren also visits Lorne Lamont, whose house lies outside a town ring dike.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: April 22, 1997
Guest(s): Lorne Lamonte, Rob McCarthy, Mary Sawatzky
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Reg Sherren
Duration: 3:14

Did You know?

Declaring a state of emergency gave Manitoba greater powers to coordinate the flood effort.

In order to protect people, property and the environment, they could:
• compel people to work on the flood effort;
• force people to hand over equipment or supplies;
• force people to evacuate; and
• enter any property without a warrant if a dike was breached.

• As mentioned in the CBC report, Adam Young, a 14-year-old boy, was sucked into the sewer system. He did not survive.
• By the end of the 1997 flood, 28,000 people, 2000 head of cattle and 45,000 chickens had been evacuated.
• In 1979, the Canadian military conducted flood rescues with large Chinook helicopters which were capable of holding up to 60 people at one time. The Chinooks were withdrawn from service in 1991. During the 1997 flood, people were evacuated in twos and threes.

• In late April, worried relatives of Manitobans began calling the Canadian Red Cross from as far away as Ireland. If evacuees had registered with the Red Cross, the organization could provide information. Eleven thousand evacuees had registered by April 28.
• Large numbers of evacuees stayed in St. Vital arena in Winnipeg and the Manitoba towns of Altona, Steinbach, and Ste. Anne.
• River levels within Winnipeg do rise, even with the floodway. Winnipeg lost its first riverside home to the flood on April 26.

• Flood officials were afraid water would travel overland from the Morris and Red Rivers, make an end run around the floodway and pour into Winnipeg overland. To prevent this, the 40-kilometre Brunkild or "Z" dike was constructed to the southwest of Winnipeg.
• Construction of such a dike would normally take one month. It was done in six days, with trucks and bulldozers operating 24 hours a day.


Red River Rising: Manitoba Floods more