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Water levels drop at Manitoba’s Rivers Dam, but province warns more rain coming

Rivers Flooding
Corey Callaghan has the latest on the flooding in Rivers where residents are seeing some encouraging signs.

The province said Friday water levels have dropped at a southwestern Manitoba dam that officials worry has been left structurally unsound after a record rainfall in the region this week.

But those living in waterlogged parts of the province don’t appear to be in the clear just yet.

Read more: ‘One-in-1,000-year event’: Manitoba’s Rivers Dam at highest level ever

In a flood and highwater update Friday, the province said widespread rain — up to 100 mm — is forecast for many southern Manitoba watersheds over the next week or so.

The new rain could lead to localized overland flooding in some areas, and the province said property owners should take precautions as water levels could quickly rise.

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That’s not good news for regions in southwest and western Manitoba that have already seen rivers and creeks swell after more than 200 mm of rain fell over three days this week.

Many living in Rivers, Man., had been breathing a sigh of relief Friday as water levels around the community’s dam dropped, despite a thunderstorm rolling through town overnight.

But a close eye remains on the town’s 60-year old dam, about 220 km west of Winnipeg, after the province said it had lost confidence in structure earlier this week.

Water rushes through Manitoba’s Rivers Dam
Water rushes through Manitoba’s Rivers Dam

Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said Thursday the dam is facing a one-in-1,000-year flood event, and if it fails, everything in its path would be at risk.

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Read more: Minnedosa and nearby RM of Minto-Odanah declare states of emergency

That warning led to the evacuation of people and livestock from roughly 40 properties along the Little Saskatchewan River downstream of the dam in the RMs of Riverdale and Whitehead.

The dam remained intact Friday, when data from the province showed water flows through the structure were at 8,500 cubic feet per second (cfs), down from 12,000 cfs recorded earlier this week.

Brandon Flood Concerns
Brandon Flood Concerns

Emergency trailers sent to affected areas

The province said Friday crews are working in flood-affected areas, including at the Rivers Dam, where minor repairs are being completed on an ongoing basis. 

Staff are also monitoring water levels and inspecting infrastructure throughout the region, and 11 emergency response trailers — with pumps, water tubes and other flood-fighting equipment — have been deployed to the Westman area, the province added.

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Read more: Cleanup begins as storm, probable tornado topples barns, floods streets, hospital in southern Manitoba

The province said overland flooding is being reported across the Assiniboine River watershed, and flooding should be expected for most low-lying areas along the river between Brandon and Portage la Prairie.

A flood warning remained in place for the Assiniboine River from Brandon to Portage Friday.

The province said water levels on Lake Wahtopanah have fallen 1.5 feet since Thursday, and while they continue to drop, levels remain historically high.

A flood warning also remains in place for the Little Saskatchewan River and Whitemud River watersheds, which are both above flood stage, the province said in its update Friday.

Read more: Flood warning, high water advisory issued for parts of Manitoba already hit hard by rain

High water levels on the Whitemud River is affecting areas near Arden and Gladstone, the province said Friday, although levels have peaked and are retreating at most locations except at Westbourne, where the peak is expected in the next 24 to 48 hours.

The province kicked the Portage Diversion into operation Thursday in an effort to lower water levels on the Assiniboine River, and said Friday that’s left Lake Manitoba water levels at 811.5 ft., which it says is in the middle of the lake’s desired water level range.

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‘We’re still on high level of vigilance’

Minnedosa and the surrounding RM of Minto-Odanah declared states of emergency Wednesday after the heavy rains washed out roads and flooded home basements and businesses.

The flood watch continued downstream in Brandon Friday, where the city reactivated its emergency operations centre earlier in the week.

Read more: Stormy weather in southwestern Manitoba isn’t over yet, says meteorologist

The city has built a temporary dike at the low-lying intersection of 18th Street and Grand Valley Road in an effort to protect hundreds of properties should the flood waters come.

But nearly 800 homes and 100 businesses have been told to be ready to evacuate just in case.

Storm slams Brandon
Storm slams Brandon

Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest said water levels had fallen slightly Friday, but the city wasn’t declaring victory just yet.

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“We’re still on high level of vigilance,” he told Global News.

Read more: Rapid City, Man., family describes tornado touchdown; state of emergency declared

“We’ve finished off all of our evacuation plans and we are ready to deploy that should it be necessary.”

The province says EMO staff are working with affected municipalities to help get ready for the worst, and, if needed, evacuee reception centres will be set up with physical distancing measures in place.

— With files from Joe Scarpelli and Corey Callaghan

2 southern Manitoba communities face flooding after heavy rains
2 southern Manitoba communities face flooding after heavy rains