Assiniboine River flood crest in sight

The worst of Manitoba's flooding could soon be over as the Assiniboine River is cresting in Brandon and set to peak at the dike breach point on Tuesday.

The worst of Manitoba's flooding could soon be over as the Assiniboine River is cresting in Brandon and set to peak at the dike breach point on Tuesday.

But it will be weeks, if not months, before things return to normal.

Brandon Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said the high water levels are expected to last for quite while, which means people forced from their homes could be displaced for some time yet.

She and her council members spent the weekend visiting with some of those 1,000 people and talking about ways to help those people cope with day-to-day living.

"We've met a lot of people who not only are they evacuated, but because they happen to work for a business that was also evacuated, they're without a home and without a job," said Decter Hirst.

"The stress is unimaginable."

Brandon's emergency measures co-ordinators are closely monitoring the dikes protecting the city's low-lying areas but say everything is holding. So far.

The biggest concern is how long the dikes can withstand the high water levels, Decter Hirst said.

Life by the dike breach There is also no word on when people who live near the Hoop and Holler Bend, where the dike was breached intentionally on Saturday, will be able to return to their homes.

The provincial government decided to flood the large farming area southeast of Portage La Prairie in order to avoid a larger catastrophy if dikes along the Assiniboine River between Portage and Headingley collapsed under the pressure of the swollen river.

Officials said on Monday that the flow of water from the breach is working as hoped but it is still being closely monitored.

None of the homes in the spill zone have been flooded and as of late Sunday, only three had water reaching the bottom of their protective dikes, according to the government.

Slow flow

Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said the water is spreading out so slowly, a person walking next to it would be faster.

He said the deliberate flood is easing pressure on the Assiniboine River and preventing it from rising any further.

Army crews and volunteers put up sandbags and tube dikes around most of the 150 homes in the spill zone but some won't see water anywhere near them for days.

Residents in the spill zone have watched the water come — a small blue ribbon on the horizon at first, slowly oozing across the flat Prairie landscape, creeping toward their homes and farmland.

"It's like in a scary movie when they play that suspension (music) and you know something's coming but you don't know what it is," Shea Doherty said on his family's farm just south of the Hoop and Holler Bend, where the breach is located along an oxbow of the Assiniboine.

"It's like you started to see faint blue along the trees a mile and a half away, and then you started seeing it get larger and larger, and it's like, 'it's coming'."

Water surprises

Doherty said his brother stayed up most of the night, surveying with a flashlight to make sure the water didn't arrive sooner than expected.

While the flow provided no surprises, there was water showing up unexpectedly from other places.

The saturated ground is beginning to push water up, long before it arrives overland from the breach, Doherty said.

Although his home has been sandbagged and an earthen dike is protecting his greenhouse, he intends to stay at the greenhouse with pumps ready until floodwater arrives.

He expects that to happen around noon Monday.

"I'll continue to stay here and watch, man those pumps if it does start to seep up … and underneath the greenhouse. It doesn't make sense to have it on the inside when you want it on the outside," he said.

If all goes according to the government's plan with the intentional breach, the water will eventually drain into the Red River system, where water levels have dropped sharply since April.

More military on the way

More help is on the way for weary floodfighters along Lake Manitoba.

The province has requested another 100 members of the Canadian Forces to join the effort, said Ashton.

The soldiers will work in communities along the lake, where exhaustion is becoming a concern. Ashton said their deployment will be longer than that of the 1,500 soldiers currently on the ground.

"We've called up seasonal conservation staff as well because clearly, a lot of the communities in and around Lake Manitoba are really getting exhausted," he said.

The water on the lake is the highest it's been since regulation of the levels began in 1961, and it isn't expected to peak until June.

Some people estimate they've lost 30 to 40 feet of beachfront to the rising water.

"If something's not done to protect the front of our properties we're gonna be in a lot of trouble ;cause this water isn't [receding] until November and at some point, the winds'll come and it will erode our property and take our homes," said Jim Stevenson, who lives at Twin Lakes Beach on the lake's southeastern shore.

With files from The Canadian Press