Manitobans sandbag frantically, province prepares to cut dike
WATCH: Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton updates flooding situation and the proposed breach of the Hoop and Holler bend
WINNIPEG – As Manitoba continues to prepare for a possible intentional breach of an Assiniboine River dike, residents downstream are building sandbag dikes to previously unseen heights.
In addition to a provincial state of emergency, there are 55 Manitoba communities under states of local emergency, about 500 Canadian Forces members are helping reinforce dikes in the region, and almost 130,000 sandbags have been delivered in two days to two rural municipalities downstream of Portage la Prairie, Man.
The Assiniboine River will crest at the Portage Diversion, just west of Portage la Prairie, on Wednesday between 9 a.m. and noon, the provincial government said during a news conference Monday.
The crest is forecast to reach 50,500 to 51,500 cubic feet per second, and about 34,000 cfs will be diverted north through the Portage Diversion to Lake Manitoba, while 18,000 cfs will go downstream toward Winnipeg in the Assiniboine River. The Assiniboine flow will be increased to 18,000 cfs by midnight Tuesday, provincial government officials said.
Heavy equipment continued to work at the Hoop and Holler Bend just east of Portage la Prairie, Man., on Monday morning to prepare for a possible intentional breach of the dike there.
The cut will only be made as a last resort to protect properties downstream from an uncontrolled breach, Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said.
The dike was cut and land intentionally flooded during a flood in 2011. This year’s crest is expected to be one foot higher than 2011 levels.
Shae Doherty, whose farm was flooded by the 2011 breach, waited for armed forces personnel to arrive to help him sandbag his home near Hoop and Holler on Monday morning.
Half of his land was flooded and 75 per cent of it was inaccessible for months after the cut was made in 2011, he said.
“We’re still in recovery mode,” he said, explaining that the land no longer is capable of producing the same types of crops he grew before the 2011 flood.
He’s extremely disappointed that the cut is being considered again.
“If it happens, that will put us back to where we were again,” he said.
Downstream in the rural municipality of Cartier, north of the Assiniboine River, people worked frantically to build their dikes to three feet above the 2011 flood levels.
The Assiniboine runs about 100 metres from Robin Rogers’ yard. The military helped add sandbags to the top of his permanent dike.
“I’m expecting to wake up tomorrow with some water in my yard,” said Rogers, who has pumps ready to deal with the inflow.
Volunteers are still needed in the Rural Municipality of Cartier. So are donations of water, sports drinks and fruit.
The Rural Municipality of St. Francois Xavier, south of the Assiniboine River and west of Winnipeg, also needs volunteers. Volunteers can go the municipal office at 1060 Highway 26 in St. Francois Xavier, about 35 kilometres west of Winnipeg.
© Shaw Media, 2014