From sandbags to sandwiches, volunteer response to Minnedosa flooding has been 'remarkable'

Officials are still keeping a close eye on floodwaters in Minnedosa, days into sandbagging and other mitigation efforts in the southwestern Manitoba town. But as of Saturday evening, the end was in sight as the Minnedosa Lake approached a crest.

Small towns shine during emergencies 'because they just band together,' emergency co-ordinator says

Volunteers load sandbags into a truck in the southwestern Manitoba town of Minnedosa, which is experiencing flooding. (Submitted by Kate Moir)

Officials are still keeping a close eye on floodwaters in Minnedosa, days into sandbagging and other mitigation efforts in the southwestern Manitoba town.

But as of Saturday evening, the end was in sight as the Minnedosa Lake approached a crest.

"We have stabilized, which is good news," said Kate Moir, municipal emergency co-ordinator for Minnedosa Minto-Odanah Emergency Measures Committee and Support Services.

Still, provincial engineers and public works crews continued working to manage low-lying spots at risk of overland flooding, Moir said. 

"Right now, it's just monitoring 24/7 to see the data, to see that it goes down," Moir said.

"You never want to say that it's all clear until it's all clear."

Jim Doppler, Minnedosa's chief administrative officer, said while the lake was up about four inches Saturday morning, it seemed to have held steady since.

Spillover along the banks of the river, which runs through the town, has put about 30 homes at risk and backed up some storm drains, flooding a few roads. But as of Saturday evening, no evacuation orders had been issued.

"We are containing both situations through reinforcing sandbagging [and] pumping, and we have the hydrovac [truck] onsite clearing off some of the main highways," Doppler said.

Flood crews jumped into action on Wednesday as news came in of a local greenhouse needing immediate help with flooding.

Teams worked in shifts to supervise distributing sandbags, Moir said, and it didn't take much to find enough volunteers in Minnedosa, which is about 200 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

A Tiger Dam system is set up around Tanner's Crossing School in Minnedosa, where water is pooled around the elementary school. (Submitted by Kate Moir)

"[There was] a steady stream of people coming from within our community, from the rural municipality and then from outlying communities coming in to lend a hand," she said.

"It truly has been a remarkable experience…. Everyone is calling and saying, 'Hey, how can we help?'"

Restaurants step up

Those offering to help included restaurants in town pitching in to make sure volunteers stayed fed, Moir said.

For Maggie Ye, stepping up to offer noodles, chicken balls and shrimp from Sun Sun Chinese Restaurant for flood volunteers was a no-brainer.

"This is a very nice community — and people, they're always helping each other — so we just want to do our part," said Ye, who's run the restaurant with her husband, Gordon Lin, for a decade.

"We're just a family business. We can be there and help. So we just try to do something for the community," she added.

That community means a lot to people like Janis Wahoski, who's called Minnedosa home her whole life.

"Born and raised. And I'll probably die here," she said, laughing.

People in Minnedosa rallied to fill and distribute sandbags this week. (Submitted by Leona Creighton)

Wahoski, now president of the town's Royal Canadian Legion Branch 138 ladies' auxiliary, spent Friday with a handful of women from the group making food for flood volunteers.

For more than two hours, they put together ham, chicken and cheese sandwiches — about 10 to 15 loaves of bread's worth. It's just what you do, she said.

"Anytime someone needs assistance, we're more than willing to help. It doesn't matter what it is," Wahoski said.

"That's what we're here for, you know, the community."

It's a similar response to what the community saw during a flood in 2020, Moir said, when Minnedosa was among those hit hard.

Sandbags are piled at sites throughout Minnedosa, including the town's 50+ Activity Centre. (Submitted by Kate Moir)

That's just the nature of small towns, Doppler said.

"Everybody steps up, whether they live in the town or the area," added the chief administrative officer. "It's just that good neighbour good will."

Moir said she's hoping cleanup after the waters recede will be minimal. Flood response crews were prepared for the water, and the work they've done has already mitigated the risk of overland flooding and septic system backups.

And the influx of volunteers the town saw didn't hurt, either.

"During a time of emergency or an event like this, it's really where small communities shine because they just band together. And it really is a united and collaborative effort," she said.

"It's just really amazing to see everybody come together in the community spirit. It truly is a wonderful place to be that we're from — to know that people could rally and support each other in such a fast fashion, and it continues for four days."


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