WINNIPEG – The Assiniboine River flood crest between Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg is expected to be a foot higher than it was in 2011, Manitoba water forecasters say.
Homeowners in the region west of Winnipeg were warned to prepare for high flood waters over the next 24 to 48 hours as a surge of water from torrential late-June rains in Saskatchewan and western Manitoba makes its way down the Assiniboine River.
“It’s a stressful time dealing with a surge of water,” Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said at a news conference in Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon. “Everybody is coming together to deal with a series of very serious significant challenges.”
Officials in two communities in the path of the surge of water, the RM of Cartier and St. Francois Xavier, appealed for volunteers to help fill sandbags.
There are 400 Canadian Forces personnel in those communities and elsewhere helping the province prepare for the flood, with that number likely to increase to 500 by the end of Sunday, provincial government officials said during a news conference Sunday afternoon.
“One of our jobs is to provide assistance when needed for any disaster relief within Canada or around the world,” Sgt. Ian Tait from Canadian Forces Base Shilo said, as he and other soldiers worked to protect property in St. Francois Xavier. “Wherever we’re needed, we go.”
The help is greatly appreciated, said homeowner Keven Van Camp, who was flooded in 2011.
“In 2011, it took five days to sandbag, but with the military, 24 hours,” he said. “It was a great relief when the military showed up.”
Dikes along the Assiniboine are being reinforced and will be monitored 24 hours a day, the province said, and sandbag production has ramped up, with more than 80,000 sandbags made Saturday with the help of soldiers, most of whom are based in Manitoba.
The province is preparing the area near the Hoop and Holler Bend, just downstream of Portage la Prairie, for a cut in the dike, should it be needed to prevent an uncontrolled breach elsewhere. That cut will only be made as a last resort, the province said.
Farmer Dria Boyachek is afraid her land will be destroyed if the dike is cut.
“If they let out what they’re predicting this year, everything will be washed away. It will be so fast that it will take the crop right off, topsoil right off — you can’t get that back,” she said. “It will be years before we can recover from that.”
The Portage Diversion, which redirects Assiniboine River north towards Lake Manitoba, is taking 15,000 cubic feet per second northward, and that will be increased to 18,000 cfs at noon Monday, the province said. The peak flow through the diversion is expected to come on Tuesday.
While the province has been working to re-open an emergency outlet from Lake St. Martin, which gets Lake Manitoba’s overflow water, that work was stopped by a protest on Sunday, the province said.
“We urge the protestors to allow us to continue the work. It is really important for us to protect Manitobans,” Ashton said.
Dikes at Brandon, upstream of Portage la Prairie and the Portage Diversion, have withstood the crest that has now passed through; a second crest is expected July 17 to 18.
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