Manitoba communities on flood watch: 'Not if, but when'
Published Monday, April 28, 2014 8:23AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 28, 2014 10:12PM EDT
Several communities in western Manitoba are braced for flooding, as an embankment keeping a deluge of water from the Birdtail Creek has started to fail.
When the embankment can no longer hold back the water, a surge is expected to travel quickly down Birdtail Creek, affecting several communities including the town of Birtle, the Waywayseecappo First Nation, the Birdtail Sioux First Nation, and the rural municipalities of Birtle, Rossburn and Miniota.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said more emergency equipment is being made available for when the water flows. “We have to move on protecting the community as rapidly as possible,” he told CTV News.
The size of the water flows will depend on the size of the breach, but the flows could reach a high of 30,000 cubic feet per second, the province said in a flood bulletin issued Sunday.
The breach is being caused by an ice jam that's blocking a box culvert on a railway embankment near Provincial Trunk Highway 45. A second embankment slide has developed at the site, the province said in a flood bulletin issued Monday.
Evacuations have already taken place in the Waywayseecappo First Nation, the Birdtail Sioux First Nation, the town of Birtle and the municipalities of Birtle, Rossburn and Miniota.
About 64 people in the Waywayseecappo First Nation have been displaced after approximately 12 homes and a seniors’ complex were evacuated, according to the latest flood bulletin.
Meanwhile, 39 people were displaced and 18 homes were evacuated in Birtle.
“We live by the river,” Birtle resident Nancy Evans told CTV News. “The river gets high most years, but we’ve never really experienced a surge like this one could be.”
Most of the evacuated are staying with family members or in local hotels,CTV Winnipeg's Ben Miljure reported from the town of Birtle. A reception centre has been opened at the town's municipal office.
Miljure said officials have been building up dikes and strengthening key pieces of infrastructure in anticipation of the surge.
Community members in Birtle have put up 30 concrete barriers on a local bridge to add weight to it, because there is concern it could be lifted up and swept away, he said.
"They say it's only a matter of time -- it's not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ -- when that embankment gives way all of that water will go rushing down the valley where it will join up with the Birdtail Creek, and that's what concerning for a lot of residents along the Birdtail," he said, adding that the water is already high from the spring runoff.
Chief Melville Wabash from the Waywayseecappo First Nation said that a seniors' apartment building had to be evacuated.
Wabash said the community evacuated the residence to make sure its residents were safe and away from any danger.
He said everyone is on edge because they're not sure what to expect. "We can't really predict what's really going to happen, but it's going to be a big rush of water and a big surge of water," he said.
Meanwhile, water levels appear to have crested on the Peguis First Nation.
A total of 131 people have been forced from their homes on the Peguis First Nation, according to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
Sandbags and water tube dikes are protecting about 25 homes on the reserve.
Floor warnings remain in place for: all points along the Birdtail Creek downstream of Provincial Trunk Highway 45, the Assiniboine River between the Shellmouth Dam and Brandon, all points along the Little Saskatchewan River, and all points along the Fisher River.
With files from CTV Winnipeg's Ben Miljure and The Canadian Press