Flooding forces evacuations in Dauphin Lake

Dozens of permanent residents and seasonal cottagers on Dauphin Lake are out of their homes, evacuated after strong winds sent dangerous waves over roads and flooded properties.
Sandbag dikes couldn't hold off the flooding from Dauphin Lake in the community of Ochre Beach. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Dozens of permanent residents and seasonal cottagers on Dauphin Lake are out of their homes, evacuated after strong winds sent dangerous waves over roads and flooded properties.

The lake levels are extremely high and more rain is expected Tuesday and Wednesday, meaning that strong winds easily send the water onto the properties lining the shore.

Some 40 properties in Dauphin Beach and Ochre Beach were evacuated Monday evening and more could be added to the list.

Ochre Beach and Dauphin Beach are three kilometres apart on the southeast shore of Dauphin Lake, which is about 290 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

Cottage owners build barriers in a scramble to protect properties against surging lake levels in Ochre Beach. ((Brady Strachan/CBC))

Germaine Gendreau, who lives at Ochre Beach, said everyone east of her property has been evacuated because their roads are under water.

"There's water all around them. They have dikes in front where the lake is but to the back of them there's water. There's water behind them, there's water in front of them," she said.

Gendreau has so-called super sandbags protecting her home and they have managed to preserve her road access.

But strong winds from the northeast could create a huge threat.

"[That] will give our super sandbags a big test. We'll see what happens," she said.

"At least we're still here so we can see what happens. I sure would hate to have to leave."

Gendreau's husband's family has lived at Ochre Beach since the 1930s and has never seen the lake level so high.

The only traffic allowed through the evacuation zone is heavy tractors carrying sandbags to provincial crews reinforcing dikes with super sandbags.

Clinton Cleave, the reeve of the Rural Municipality of Ochre River, said people are exhausted and frustrated with the battle, which comes just a week after another storm blew through, breaking down 90 per cent of the dikes protecting homes.

Homeowners had been trying to build up better dikes until they were asked to move out Monday evening. A few people living in permanent homes refused to go, Cleave said.

They have remained in their homes manning pumps to keep their basements dry and try to save their properties.

Flooding raises lakes

A heavy snowpack across the Prairies during the winter, preceded by a wet fall that left the ground saturated, resulted in widespread flooding. Lake levels fed by swollen rivers have also risen in Manitoba.

Hundreds of residences were evacuated in communities — Twin Lakes Beach, Laurentian Beach, Delta Beach, Sandpiper Beach, Pioneer Resort, Johnson Beach — along the south shore of Lake Manitoba last week after a storm whipped up waves and pummeled properties.

That lake is already at historically high levels and is not expected to reach its peak until early July. Officials had been saying the peak would come in mid-June but they revised the date on Monday.

They also predict it will top out 0.3 metres higher than they originally thought.

Twin Lakes Beach resident Fred Pisclevich has become numb to any new flood forecasts because his property was destroyed by the storm.

"But it's going to flood a lot more, a lot more people — the people that think they've gotten away with this until now. I hope I'm wrong but I just don't see a future for that area," he said.

Pisclevich is staying in a hotel in Winnipeg and waiting to hear about the compensation package from the province. He is hoping they buy him out.

Like many others in the area, he blames the government for artificially raising the lake levels and creating the conditions that allowed the storm to wreak such havoc.

The lake is being fed by floodwaters from the Assiniboine River. For months now, the Portage Diversion, a 29-kilometre long channel, has shifted river water from just west of Portage la Prairie to the lake.

The diversion minimizes flooding where the Assiniboine joins the Red River downstream in Winnipeg.

But it has meant residents along the lakeshore have had to deal with extreme levels.

Pisclevich has tried to keep his mind off the destruction of his property but often becomes distraught, like he did at a movie the other night.

"Halfway through the show I started to cry, because all of a sudden it hit me — I'm 67 years old and I'm homeless. That's not what I worked all my life for," he said.