Peguis First Nation flood waters recede, 135 people still evacuated

Balancing five kids under the age of 11 while seven months pregnant sounds difficult in the best of times, but Cheryl-lee Spence, 26, is managing it while evacuated from her home on the Peguis First Nation.

First Nation declared state of emergency on Friday due to overland flooding

Cheryl-lee Spence, 26, and her children are staying at a Winnipeg hotel after they were evacuated from the Peguis First Nation on Sunday due to flooding. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Balancing five kids under the age of 11 while seven months pregnant sounds difficult in the best of times, but Cheryl-lee Spence, 26, is managing it while evacuated from her home on Peguis First Nation.

"There's a lot of things going through my mind right now. I'm just hoping that the water stays down and everyone can go back home," Spence told CBC News on Monday afternoon at the Sandman Hotel where she is staying in Winnipeg.

Over the weekend, 135 people were forced out of the First Nation as flood waters threatened the community located about 180 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

Peguis declared a local state of emergency last Friday and 300 houses were either directly or indirectly affected by overland flooding, the chief said.

Spence said the water had been creeping up for about two weeks.

The river runs behind her house on the First Nation and she said she's never seen it so high. But it wasn't flooding in her home that forced the family out; it was the change to their water well.

"I really didn't think anything of it up until the smell started changing inside and outside," she said.

"My water started smelling like eggs and outside it stunk like sewer."

Cheryl-lee Spence, who is seven months pregnant, says she hopes she can get home before her baby is born. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

On Sunday night around 9 p.m. there was a knock at her door and Spence was told she had an hour to pack up before heading south for an undetermined period of time. She forgot a lot of things, including her phone.

"I have two babies who are asthmatic, plus myself, and my baby has respiratory issues since he was like three weeks old. So they didn't want to take the chance and keep us in the home," Spence said.

"[I have] a lot of anxiety just because my partner is out there working and I'm in here," she said, adding her partner was part of the sandbagging effort.

While Spence said she believes that she will be able to return to her home, with only two months left in her pregnancy she hopes it is sooner rather than later.

"In a way yes because I'm due in two months and I'm not really looking forward to bringing a baby into a hotel. I am kind of hoping to go back home," she said.

Her concerns for returning home aren't something new for the First Nation that has experienced multiple floods. There are still 250 people living in Winnipeg, displaced from their community as a result of a serious flood in 2011, said Chief Glenn Hudson.

"It creates a lot of social problems with our people. Evacuees that have been out for the last six years, we've seen incidents of families separating," he said on CBC's Up To Speed on Monday afternoon.

"It plays havoc on our economy and certainly our education as far as our children are concerned. Rather than growing and building an economy we end up spending a lot of time dealing with disaster," he added.

While the recent water levels looked to be heading in the direction of the devastating 2011 flood, Hudson said the water receded overnight.

"We will be continuing to monitor over the next couple days and once we have a significant drop in the water and obviously with the weather co-operating we are anticipating going through a major clean up," he said.

Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson says 300 houses were either directly or indirectly affected by overland flooding. (Glenn Hudson)

Hudson said he spoke with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister on Monday morning about long-term solutions to the annual flooding. While the First Nation's people are resilient, Hudson said the fallout of floods can have a serious impact.

"The conditions that follow up a flood aren't very favourable to a lot of our people, that being mould and certainly respiratory issues and that sort of thing tend to arise."

For now, the Canadian Red Cross is working with Peguis residents, providing supplies, food and hotel rooms.

Spence is trying to stay optimistic.

"They are giving us more than enough supplies. The food is awesome. I don't have to cook," she said with a smile.