Manitoba flood thread melting away

ROSS ROMANIUK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 6:40 AM ET

Like the river ice that had threatened Winnipeg with flooding, the danger is quickly melting away -- and crashing onto the shore in Selkirk.

Blocks of ice have seemingly stormed that city of 10,000 about 20 km to the north, where the Red River yesterday had risen about four feet in little more than 24 hours.

Steve Topping, an official with the provincial Water Stewardship Department, described the event as a "rather spectacular" ice invasion.

"You'll see huge pans of ice standing vertical, up to 20 feet high," he said of Selkirk's riverbank. "Ice was shoved up on the shore and took out trees with a very devastating effect. It has changed people's view of the river."

One large ice jam on the Red, which had been just south of Selkirk, moved Friday night to the area of Highway 4 at the community's northern edge.

As it flowed north, massive ice chunks were almost thrown onto the shore.

"It is incredible, the force. One piece of ice pushed out of the river about 20 feet," said Dean North, a professional at Selkirk Golf and Country Club. "You watch the force push this up right in front of your eyes."

Selkirk's eye-catching dilemma -- which came with apparently few reports of serious property damage -- emerged as Winnipeg's river ice has all but vanished. The capital was expected to possibly be clear of ice on the Red by last night.

"It has cleared significantly, just in the last several hours," Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton told reporters. "When it breaks it's quite something. It happens very rapidly."

The river at Selkirk's dock has climbed to within two feet of its record crest two years ago. The Red was anticipated to possibly reach its 2007 level there if the jam at Highway 4 hadn't broken up by late last night.

Meanwhile, about one-third of Selkirk's 18-hole golf course was under about a foot of water late yesterday after the river came over a dike.

"The ice jam kind of moved around our golf course slowly," North said, adding any damage to the links will be far less than what the facility sustained in 2007. "The danger is the ice jam north of town. They're the ones fretting now."

Just north of Selkirk at Breezy Point, access via a main road has worsened for residents ignoring advice from authorities to temporarily leave their homes in order to avoid becoming stranded.

"Three teenagers had to be escorted out of Breezy Point because they stayed overnight and couldn't get out with their vehicles," said Don Brennan, acting director with the Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization.

Despite the lessening of flood dangers in Winnipeg, Ashton said the city is not "in the clear" as rain is forecast for the next two days and a temperature of 17 C on Tuesday is expected to cause swift melting.

ross.romaniuk@sunmedia.ca


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