Battling Mother Nature, again: Manitoba town of Churchill tackles high water levels, flooding

The impacts of a powerful March blizzard are still being felt in the remote northern Manitoba community of Churchill, as flooding has damaged the rail line, keeping groceries and supplies in the south.

Flooding has damaged the rail line into the community, leaving groceries stuck in the south

The impacts of a powerful March blizzard are still being felt as flooding now threatens cottages and homes around Churchill, Man. (Ricci O'Connor/Facebook)

The impacts of two powerful March blizzards are still being felt in the remote northern Manitoba community of Churchill as flooding has damaged the rail line, leaving groceries and supplies stuck in the south.

The northern Manitoba town, located about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, was already experiencing high water levels when it was walloped by wild winter weather.

With the spring melt underway, water is everywhere, said Mayor Mike Spence.

"We've got historic record water flows coming into our community here. It's a lot of water coming down," he said.

As of Saturday, the Churchill River was flowing at about 160,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and wasn't expected to peak until June 2. There is still ice on the river, meaning there's also a risk for unpredictable flows and rapid changes in water levels.

High water levels have already flooded some cottages and homes in the Goose Creek subdivision and there have been calls for volunteers to help with sandbagging.

"There's excessive water throughout the whole system so we are getting the brunt of this," Spence said.

In March, groceries coming into the community were delayed for three weeks after the area was hit with two major blizzards, one of which led to a state of emergency.

Spence said a train brought groceries and supplies on Tuesday but now there is severe damage on the railway system because of the flooding and no other trains can get through.

"What that means is we have a problem," he said.

"We have a rail problem here where we are not able to use the train system because of damage to the rail line, so that needs to be attended to, and that actually can't be attended to until the water conditions are dealt with."

Spence said the community is working with Calm Air, based out of Thompson, to fly in groceries on Monday.

The community has received help from the province, which is working with people who may need to leave their homes. It's also working with Manitoba Hydro, particularly to maintain the local pumphouse and the town's water supply.

Anthonie Koop, a Manitoba Hydro spokesperson, said water has covered the road to the CR30 pumphouse, but Hydro is using a helicopter to fly in technicians.

"What's happening up north, there is high water everywhere," he said.

Hydro employees are also providing hydrometrics experts to work with the province and help the town forecast the water flow.

Spence said it's been a trying year battling Mother Nature.

"We thought we were getting a break and then all of a sudden this happened. I will tell you, it's one thing after another. It's one of these challenges that we continue to face, so we will get through it," he said.