Prairies flood fears see no relief

More than 1,000 people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan have been forced from their homes as floodwaters continue to rise, with concerns that the Assiniboine and Red rivers could crest at the same time in Winnipeg.
City of Regina workers pile onto a dyke along the south side of Wascana Creek in Regina on Monday. (Roy Antal/Canadian Press)


  • 3 Sask. communities removed from emergency list: Radville, Laurier and Estevan.

More than 1,000 people in Manitoba and Saskatchewan have been forced from their homes as flood waters continue to rise, with concerns that the Assiniboine and Red rivers could crest at the same time in Winnipeg.

The number of evacuees has risen to nearly 800 in Manitoba, with almost 600 provincial and municipal roads affected by flooding and 32 municipalities under states of emergency. Most of the evacuees are from First Nations in central Manitoba.

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said the Red and Assiniboine are now virtually ice-free, but that water levels are rising.

Volunteer firefighters in the town of Emerson, just north of Manitoba's border with the United States, are patrolling the dike as the crest of the Red River moves closer.

Bill Spanjer, the EMO co-ordinator, said a 24-hour patrol began Wednesday morning.

Provincial officials have pegged the crest's arrival on Monday, but said it could be as early as the weekend.

In the village of St. Lazare, the crest of the Qu'Appelle River is expected to arrive sometime Wednesday or Thursday, followed shortly afterwards by the Assiniboine River.

Rick Fouilliard, St. Lazare's chief administrative officer, said the village has a main dike but there are seven houses outside of that area being protected by sandbags.

Crews are monitoring the situation and reinforcing those dikes, he said.

"We've got a couple of families moved out and we're just monitoring the situation now as it comes up. We could possibly have to close the highway south of town," said Fouilliard.

The main dike around the village is also being built up another half-metre.

Manitoba town scrambles to protect itself

In Melita, a southwestern town of about 1,000 people, the water level on the Souris River has already surpassed the high-water mark expected this year.

"In 2009, the last major flood event in Manitoba, they raised dikes in this community and they raised a bridge," CBC reporter Wab Kinew said. "However, because the water is gone beyond the forecast, they're now scrambling to put up new flood mitigation measures." 

There are worries Melita's dike might not be able to hold back the rushing water and that a breach could flood the town's sewage system. Early Wednesday, a motel in the community was flooded.

"They're putting up Hesco barriers, tube dikes, and overall trying to raise their level of protection by a foot," Kinew said.

Premier Greg Selinger will be flying into Melita on Thursday to survey the damage and work being done.

Manitoba officials say about 700 provincial staff are working on the flood response across the province, as well as municipal staff, private contractors and non-government agencies such as the Salvation Army, Mennonite Disaster Service and the Red Cross.

Steve Ashton, Manitoba's emergency measures minister, says the province will be wrestling with the legacy of this year's flood long after its rivers crest and the water drenching much of the province recedes.

Damage expected to hit at least $70M

Water levels are at least as high as they were in 2009 — the second-worst flood season in the last 150 years.

That flood caused $70 million in damage and this year is expected to be just as costly.

Ashton said water levels will cause problems well into May. He said cottage owners and residents will have to remain vigilant and keep an eye on wind that has the potential to whip up swollen lakes.

In Saskatchewan, 13 communities have declared states of emergencies and more than 440 people on two First Nations have been forced from their homes.

Lynn Acoose, chief of the Sakimay First Nation, said some roads are inundated and many homes are waterlogged. She also said there's concern that drinking water in wells and cisterns people may have become contaminated.

Ochapowace First Nation declared a state of emergency on Wednesday. Preliminary work is being done to prevent flooding of homes.

Two families were evacuated from their homes in the community, which borders Round lake, the last in the Qu'Appele lakes chain in the province's southeast. An emergency centre has been set up in a seniors' complex.

However, there was some good news for at least three communities, where floodwaters have begun to recede. Radville, and the rural municipalities of Laurier and Estevan are no longer under states of emergency.

Cool temperatures have saved a lot of communities from worst-case scenarios. However, Wagstaffe warned, temperatures are expected to rise and there is still some snowpack left to melt.

The province's Watershed Authority said the City of Regina can expect water levels in Wascana Lake to peak by the end of the week.

Officials said the province is still buying sandbags to ensure they don't run out. Provincial workers are moving supplies to the areas around Humboldt, Wynyard, Porcupine Plain, Kelvington and Lake Lenore where the snowpack is starting to melt.

With files from The Canadian Press