Manitoba residents receive evacuation flood alerts

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Map of the Red River Floodway
Image: Kmusser .

Evacuation alerts were issued to 850 Manitoba residents as they prepare for the worst flooding from the Red River.

Dominion City declared a state of emergency on Monday regarding rising water levels. The area is already experiencing overland flooding. Southern Manitoba is under a winter storm warning which will worsen the situation with further precipitation. Besides working on dikes and sandbagging efforts, communities are breaking up ice jams and frozen culverts.

Ice jams have already caused the evacuation of 40 homes north of Winnipeg, and dozens of homes were flooded. A state of emergency was declared Wednesday for the rural municipalities (RM) of St. Andrews, St. Clements, East St. Paul, West St. Paul, Blanshard, St. Laurent and Franklin. Roads are being wiped out and basements flooded due to the overland flooding caused by frozen culverts and ice jams. The Red River Floodway was constructed to divert flowing waters from the river basin around the city and communities, however ice jams have caused the waters to flow over the river banks.

"The road is eventually going to get washed over so we want to get the elderly out for that reason," said Curtis Smith of the Manitoba Association of Native Fire Fighters. 95 have already been evacuated to Winnipeg from Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation.

“All the plans are in the offing. It all depends on the elevation of the water, how fast it's going to approach. You need to do a phased evacuation so it's elderly and people with special needs first." said Don Brennan acting executive director of Manitoba's Emergency Measures Organization.

Map of the Red River of the North drainage basin, with the Red River highlighted.
Image: Kmusser .

Paul Guyader, Manitoba's emergency measures coordinator reported that residents are setting sandbags into place as fast as they can be made, however the height of flooding won't come for yet another week in southern Manitoba. Towns throughout the area are surrounded by ring dikes.

During the week of April 5 to 10 is when the Red River is expected to crest around Emerson, Manitoba. Emerson is located on the east banks of the Red River near the Canada – United States border.

The river should reach its maximum during the week of April 12 to 17 in the region around Winnipeg.

"We don't want to be in a scramble this time, because one of the problems that we had last time [in 1997] was making sure that everyone understood who was in charge," said Chief Terry Nelson of the Roseau River First Nation. "Last time, the people, we weren't too much involved in what the authorities were doing."

The United States National Weather Service recorded levels at 11.6 metres (38 feet) on Thursday, and the predictions are that it should reach 12.5 metres (41 ft) by the weekend. Mayor Dennis Walaker of Fargo, North Dakota has put into place contingency plans. The Red River's recorded highest cresting at Fargo was in 1897 when it reach 12.2 metres (40 ft). The Flood of the Century in 1997 crested at 16.5 metres (54 ft) at Grand Forks, North Dakota. Manitoba officials feel that this year flooding should not be as bad as the 1997 flood.

"Mother Nature will decide when she's going to crack this baby loose", said Steve Strang, mayor of the RM of St. Clements, Manitoba.


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