Water levels down in Peguis First Nation, but flood fight far from over
Officials say it's unclear when evacuees might be able to come back
After close to two weeks, water is finally receding in Peguis First Nation, but officials say the community isn't out of the woods yet.
Those who have stayed in the community in Manitoba's Interlake through the worst of this spring's flooding there are tired, but happy to see the water starting to go down.
That includes Kim Sutherland, whose family spent the last week and a half working nearly 24/7 to save their home, using six pumps and a Tiger Dam — a series of water-filled tubes that create a barrier to hold the floodwaters back.
Sutherland said her family had a chance to leave, but she said she couldn't bear the thought of losing her home.
She, her husband and her son "struggled to fight this water from coming in the house," she said. "It was tiring. We never slept."
Sutherland says she feels relieved to see the water come down, but feels for her neighbours who were forced to leave.
"It broke my heart."
Reynold Smith and his crew have also been going virtually non-stop for nearly two weeks, putting up Tiger Dams around houses.
Their crew alone worked to protect 21 houses.
"So we're just going around fixing the ones we had trouble with 'cause the water was so deep," he said. "We were working [in] up to waist-high … water, so it was pretty hard."
Smith says he's relieved to see water starting to recede and hopes there is no more troubling rain to come.
Little rain Thursday night
Manitoba's hydrological forecast centre had estimated 20 to 50 millimetres of rain for most of the south and centre of the province over three days, beginning Thursday night.
However, by Friday morning, Peguis and the rest of the Interlake only saw between five to 10 millimetres, according to Environment Canada.
That was a bit of relief for the community, which declared a state of emergency on April 28 and issued an evacuation order on May 1, after the flooding Fisher River washed out roads and breached dikes.
Nearly 1,900 people had to evacuate the First Nation and are now living out of hotels. Peguis, which is Manitoba's largest First Nation, usually has just over 3,500 members usually living on reserve.
Indigenous Services Canada said Friday no further evacuations from Peguis are expected.
Though the community got a bit of a reprieve from the wet weather, it's still too early to say when evacuees might be able to return home, Chief Glenn Hudson said Thursday.
Water along Fisher River is still over the river's banks, he said.
"The risk hasn't gone down completely. We still have to do the work to protect our community."
But the First Nation is working on it, putting together teams to assess homes, he said.
"There's a lot of work going on behind the scenes to try and accommodate people."
The cleanup is also going to be expensive. As of Friday, Hudson said early estimates suggest it could cost upwards of $150 million to repair or replace homes and infrastructure in the community.
With files from Sheila North