Manitoba flood second highest on record

PAUL TURENNE AND JASON HALSTEAD, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:39 PM ET

WINNIPEG -- The flood of 2009 now appears as though it will be the second highest on record.

Alf Warkentin, the province's senior flood forecaster, said yesterday this year's flood -- at least from St. Jean-Baptiste to the floodway inlet in St. Norbert -- will surpass the floods of 1950 and 1979 as the second-largest flood witnessed in Manitoba since record-keeping began in the 1800s.

In the heart of that southern flood zone, Morris is completely surrounded by water, while there remain huge lakes of water in the fields between Letellier and St. Jean-Baptiste, as well as around St. Adolphe.

Those communities have yet to bear the full brunt of the flood, as a stubborn crest stuck around Emerson for a full week refuses to move north.

"It's going to keep growing. There's another foot and a half or so of rise to come," Warkentin said.

Winnipeg's forecasted crest was again increased yesterday, by nearly a foot to 22.6 James Avenue level. The 1997 flood crested in the city at 24.5 feet. The normal summer level of the Red River is 6.5 feet.

Grant Mohr, Winnipeg's land drainage and flood protection engineer, said the higher crest has put more city properties in danger and increased the need for sandbagging. "The majority of the effort will be on Scotia Street and Glenwood Crescent," Mohr said.

The city has advised about 100 property owners of the need to increase dikes and has surveyed properties and delivered sandbags to at-risk areas around the city. Several property owners along the Seine and Assiniboine rivers were also advised of increased risk. Mohr said about 35% of dike building was complete by yesterday afternoon.

'Get more volunteers'

Yesterday, more than 800 volunteers sandbagged on Scotia Street and Glenwood Crescent, but officials said more hands are needed today.

"We need to change the muscle and get more volunteers," said city emergency preparedness co-ordinator Randy Hull. "Anyone wishing to volunteer in the city is asked to call 311 for directions on how to help."

Warkentin said the increased forecasts come as tributaries to the Red, including the Assiniboine, continue to bring more water into the system than he'd expected.

But it's not only the Red River Valley that's experiencing flooding.

"From the western portion of the province to the eastern portion, everybody has some sort of flooding going on," said Don Brennan, acting head of the province's emergency measures organization. "It's basically from the 53rd (parallel) on down."

The Brokenhead Ojibway Nation north of Winnipeg was dealing with an ice jam yesterday, while more than 100 people have been evacuated from the Peguis First Nation. The Fisher River and Little Saskatchewan First Nations in the Interlake have seen smaller-scale evacuations.

The Assiniboine River is flooding in western Manitoba, while the Souris, Pembina, Icelandic and Fisher Rivers are also spilling their banks.

Flash flooding is also a problem in much of the province.

wpgsun.citydesk@sunmedia.ca


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