Saskatchewan

Sask. flood barrier broken by wind

Strong prairie winds have pushed water through a section of sandbag berms that were protecting homes and cabins on Katepwa Lake, east of Regina.

Community exhausted by water fight

Thirty-seven homes and cottages on Katepwa Lake, east of Regina, were flooded after a section of berm was overwhelmed by water whipped up by strong winds. Kent Morrisson/CBC

Strong prairie winds have pushed water through a section of sandbag berms that were protecting homes and cabins on Katepwa Lake, east of Regina.

Wind gusts that reached 60 kilometres an hour on Friday night whipped up the water on the lake, which has been rising precipitously for the past week.

"The waves just kept coming in and took down the wall and all the hard work that everybody put in for the last two weeks," Don Ferguson, a local cabin owner, told CBC News on Saturday. "It's unbelievable."

Local officials said 37 properties flooded. Of those, 11 were permanent homes. A voluntary evacuation was in place for the flooded area.

Ferguson said that at one point, lake water was pouring down onto people working on the dry side of the berm.

A line of sand bags is barely visible under the wave action on Katepwa Lake. About 60 metres of the barrier failed, leading to the flooding of 37 properties. (Kent Morrison/CBC)
"It's amazing what Mother Nature can do," he said. Water 15 centimetres deep covered the main floor of his cabin.

"There's three or four of us along here that have all got it inside the cottages. I've never seen it like this."

One neighbour is on high ground and is dry, but some shingles on the house were blown off in the strong wind. 

Water from Katepwa Lake was pushed over a sandbag berm due to wind action Friday night. (Kent Morrisson/CBC)
Warren Bobbee, emergency planning co-ordinator for the District of Katepwa, told CBC News that community members are nearly exhausted after two weeks of fighting the water. 

The community had constructed a sandbag barrier of some 2,000 metres along the lakeshore that stood about 1.5 metres high in some sections.

"After we completed that," Bobbee said, "we then had to use our volunteers and go back for that same amount and lift those berms up."

Bobbee said that even with the additional height, the wind pushed the lake water over the top.

About 60 metres of the berm washed away around 9 p.m. CT.

"We lost one that we couldn't fix," Bobbee said, noting that community members were working throughout the day Friday to shore up the berms in anticipation of the heavy winds.

Volunteers were out in force Saturday, adding more sandbags to the berm at Katepwa Lake. Kent Morrisson/CBC
On Saturday, volunteers were scrambling to rebuild sections battered by waves. The stretch that was flooded over, however, was too dangerous to reach.

Power has been cut off to the affected buildings.

In addition to the wave action, the lake level has also been rising. The water was up by about 2.5 centimetres on Friday and was expected to rise another 7.5 centimetres in the days ahead.

Bobbee said if the wind does not decrease or change direction, there could be more flooding.

[IMAGEGALLERY galleryid=453 size=large]

now