Cottagers hoping to get their first weekend away at vacation properties in Manitoba’s Whiteshell over the May long weekend are being warned to check road conditions — and pack rubber boots — before leaving home.
Flooding in the provincial park is causing major damage to shoreline infrastructure and cutting off access to nearby communities for some cottagers and residents, says Ian Barager, president of the Whiteshell Cottagers Association.
“The picture is not pretty,” Barager to CJOB’s The Start Wednesday of flooding in the area, only made worse by more rain this week.
“You see damage, you see people’s boathouses, docks, completely crushed. These are steel structures. It’s heartbreaking, to be honest.
“It’s something like, in many cases, we’ve hardly seen before.”
Like much of Manitoba, the Whiteshell has been dealing with high water for weeks. Provincial data indicates most of the southern and central water basins have received more than 150 per cent of normal precipitation since April 1.
Provincial flood forecaster Fisaha Unduche said Wednesday the Whiteshell hasn’t seen as much rain since the 1950s.
Barager said while “every single lake is pretty well at a record” the worst is being seen in areas around the Winnipeg River and Nutimik Lake.
He said Highway 307 has seen closures around Betula Lake, as has Highway 312 near Caddy Lake.
Highway 312 is the only way in and out for cottagers and residents in Ingolf Ont., the north shore of West Hawk Lake and some parts of Caddy Lake.
A Global News reporter said only large trucks and ATVs were making it through the roadway later in the day Wednesday.
West Hawk resident Kent Reid said he’s been relying on his two feet and a pair of hip waders to run errands for the past two weeks.
“We’re fortunate to have a vehicle on each side,” he said.
“New Canadian Tire boots and you walk across and that’s pretty much how you get groceries.”
Meanwhile, the high water and late ice melt have caused significant damage along shorelines, and provincial officials say conditions aren’t expected to improve with as much as 90 millimetres of rain forecast to fall over parts of the province by Friday.
Caddy Lake cottager Jason Fehr has his place surrounded with sandbags.
While the lake level is already at his front deck, Fehr says he’s doing better than others.
“We’re actually in pretty good shape. It’s just kind of unsettling that the cottage is so close and low,” he told Global News Wednesday.
Manitoba Parks has put watercraft restrictions in place in Nopiming and Whiteshell provincial parks to help protect flooded shorelines from erosion.
Boaters are being told to stay 100 metres from shore and avoid making large wakes to cause further damage.
Locals are also urging those heading the Whiteshell this weekend to be cautious as emergency services may be limited due to the high waters.
Despite the dire conditions in some areas, Barager says many roads remain open and he expects to see a number of cottagers out for the weekend.
He says those planning to travel should check to make sure roads are open before leaving, and to prepare for flooding.
“You might be one of the lucky ones, but you want to bring things like … rubber boots for sure, hip waders (and) waterproof gloves, because the water is cold,” he said.
“Let’s enjoy the weekend, but just expect there’s going to be problems.”
— with files from Global News’ Marney Blunt