Flood preparations starting in Ste. Agathe as province warns of high water levels

Jason Parker standing on the dyke that protects his family's home from flooding from the Red River. Amber McGuckin/Global News

The province is warning that water levels could be worse than the 2009 flood for some areas.

For people living in Emerson, it could be 30 cm higher than what they saw in 2009, for those in Ste. Agathe, it could be 45 cm higher.

READ MORE: Manitoba’s flood forecast says Red River could exceed 2009 levels

And these flood forecasts are sparking concern for people along the Red River like farmer Jason Parker.

“We’re trying to figure out what to do or what we should be planning to do just in case,” he said.

Parker, 35, has lived on his family land in Ste. Agathe for his entire life.

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“[The flood of] ’97 is in the back of your minds every year. When they’re talking big floods because that was the big one. When they start talking that gets more nerve wracking.”

READ MORE: North Dakota flood forecast rises, small chance of surpassing 1997 flood levels

After the flood of the century, his family built a dyke around their homes, just like many in the Red River Valley, but in 2009 those water levels got too close for comfort.

“When you walk on the dyke, 2009 was roughly four feet lower than the highest part of our dike back there. You’re living a bowl at that point so it’s a little unnerving.”

“We feel pretty confident in our flood protection here but you’re always nervous.”

US National Weather Service. US National Weather Service

His father Scott Parker also lives on the family farm and says flooding can impact their livelihood.

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“You think, ‘How is this going to start affecting cropping plans?’ From past experiences, if it’s a later flood, and the melt is later it starts delaying our seeding start and we know from past history every week we lose from the end of April to the end of May, we’re losing production and that affects everyone in the valley.”

Right now the family is looking at the possibility of having to extend their dyke, but before they start making any major moves they’re going to keep an eye on the flood forecasts.

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Chris Ewen, the mayor of Richot, says he’s not sounding the alarm yet.

“We want to wait a couple weeks and see how the warm up happens and what the thaw is like, but I know there’s water coming — it’s just a matter of how much and when and we’re still in the starting phase of preparation.”

READ MORE: 5 of the worst floods in Canadian history

The municipality is planning to set up a call centre for people in the area who have questions, said Ewen.

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They are also planning on ordering 400,000 sand bags, which is 100,000 more than they did in 2009.

The province said in the 2009 flood, the peak water level was about 38 feet higher than the typical summer water level and 18 feet higher than the average spring flood water over the last 30 years.

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