Winds whip up worry in Manitoba community hit by ice wall

Strong winds are again fraying nerves in the Manitoba community of Ochre Beach, where a windstorm on Friday crashed a wall of ice into shore and destroyed cottages.

'This is worse than a flood,' says one of many homeowners dealing with impact

Strong winds remain a concern at Ochre Beach

10 years ago
Duration 1:48
Strong winds are again fraying nerves in the Manitoba community of Ochre Beach, where a windstorm on Friday crashed a wall of ice into shoreline cottages.

Strong winds are again fraying nerves in the Manitoba community of Ochre Beach, where a windstorm on Friday crashed a wall of ice into shoreline cottages.

Thirteen cottages were destroyed and 27 others were heavily damaged, but no one was hurt, as the wind last week peaked at 90 km/h.

'I've lost part of my life savings, because that's what we used to build the house with.'—Rick Sorensen, Ochre Beach resident

On Monday, it was gusting to 40 km/h, which could be a problem, said Clayton Watts, deputy reeve of the Rural Municipality of Ochre River, about 300 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg and 20 kilometres east of Dauphin.

The wind started out from the south, then switched to the north later in the day. Watts said the south wind could push the ice back out to the lake, and when the wind changes the ice could come back.

Late on Monday, the Manitoba government issued a northwest wind alert for the area.

The municipality has restricted access to the community for the evening, the CBC's Jillian Coubrough reported from Ochre Beach.

But residents are hopeful that warm temperatures in the area — the daytime high was 28 C on Monday — will speed up the ice melt.

Risk of ice pileups along lakes

In its latest flood bulletin, the province warned of a moderate to high risk of shoreline ice pileups on Dauphin Lake and Lake Winnipeg.

There is a high risk of ice piling up on the windward shore of Lake Manitoba, according to the province.

Jay Doering, a University of Manitoba civil engineer who studied ice mechanics, said the winds at Ochre Beach managed to push the ice at an alarming speed.

"It's a little bit like thinking of a train hitting a solid barrier. It has momentum and the cars just keep coming in behind and continuing to add to the wreckage," he said.

Some people who were at Ochre Beach when the wall hit said the impact did sound like a train.

Massive cleanup

In the meantime, a massive cleanup continues from the Friday evening storm, as homeowners assess the damage to their properties.

In some places, the wall of ice was nine metres high.

[IMAGEGALLERY galleryid=4234 size=small]

Elaine Davis said community groups pitched in to help clear out the ice that came into her home.

"This is worse than a flood, because with a flood, the water just goes through and it's finished. With this, there's still so much ice out on the lake that if the wind picks up again, it could start all over," she said.

Rick Sorensen's family just moved into their home three weeks ago. Now, he wonders if anything can be saved.

"Basically, I've lost part of my life savings because that's what we used to build the house with. You know, with closing in at 60 [years of age], I'll kiss $400,000 goodbye," he said.

Insurance companies say they won't cover the damage because an event of that magnitude is considered an act of God.

Some assistance available

Premier Greg Selinger and Dauphin MLA Stan Struthers toured the area on Monday morning. Selinger said there may be some help available to residents, although he didn't say how much.

"We have disaster financial assistance which is available to everybody who's a homeowner here and we'll work closely with the reeve Clinton Cleave to look at what we can do to take a long-term look at preventing these things from happening in the future," he said.

The disaster financial assistance, however, only applies to those whose residence in Ochre Beach is their primary one, not those who have summer cottages.

Dennis Stykalo, whose cottage was destroyed on Friday, said he has insurance for his property but it does not cover flood or ice damage.

"It sucks. But no, I'm not surprised by it," he said.

"I knew there was no coverage for that. So, I mean, I'm not surprised by that. [It's] disappointing, of course."

Stykalo said the cottage's north and south walls were ripped out and the contents are lying in the backyard.

"Oh yeah, I mean, you're in shock," he said.

"My wife and I … are feeling it more and more all the time. You got more and more time to think about it and realize the repercussions of it all."

Stykalo said he had just finished paying $15,000 to repair the damage his cottage sustained in the 2011 flood.

This time, the building will likely have to be levelled, he said, adding that he doesn't know if he will build another cottage on the property because he wouldn't want to go through the stress of losing it again.

Stykalo figured it would cost about $150,000 to rebuild — money that he said he does not have.