Red River drops as locals learn to cope with flood
Published Friday, April 17, 2009 9:20PM EDT
The swollen Red River is beginning to recede in Winnipeg, bringing relief to communities besieged by the area's second worst flood in a century.
Volunteers and workers have used more than 600,000 sandbags to build makeshift dikes around town - so far, the barriers have held in most of the trouble spots.
And on Friday, the Red River had dropped by about 30 centimetres around the provincial capital.
However, officials warned against complacency in watching the dikes in some neighbourhoods, where about 280 homes on the river-side of the city's primary dike system remained under a state of emergency.
"We are kind of at crest and dropping, but I think we still need to be vigilant with water against the dikes," said Grant Mohr, from the city's flood protection and planning department.
Meanwhile, as officials in southern Manitoba work to stay one step ahead of the swollen Red River, some residents are getting used to visiting neighbours by boat and living at the mercy of sandbag dykes.
Eric Sabourin, who lives on high ground about 60 kilometres south of Winnipeg, said that people in his area are taking this year's massive flooding in stride.
"We're kind of used to the water," Sabourin told The Canadian Press on Friday.
While Sabourin's house is safe from the flood waters -- mainly because he built up his land in the wake of 1997's flooding -- the surrounding land remains completely submerged.
In some areas, the Red River is 19 kilometres wide, washing out roadways and farms.
"It's almost like a little highway between us and St. Jean," Sabourin said. "We're going up and down in boats."
In some parts of southern Manitoba -- between St. Jean and Winnipeg -- the flooding is worse than the 1950 flood.
That flood saw 107,000 people evacuated and more than 10,000 homes destroyed.
Meanwhile, provincial Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said the river has held at crest levels on the border town of Emerson for several days.
While Winnipeg's flood protection efforts have kept water levels about three metres below what they would otherwise be, Ashton said officials still need to be vigilant about monitoring the flooding conditions.
"Today's going to be a very critical day," Ashton told CTV's Canada AM on Friday.
But Ashton said times have changed and the province is much better equipped to deal with flooding conditions today.
"Right now, we have in place the floodway, we have the Shellmouth Dam, the Portage Diversion, we have the primary dikes in the City of Winnipeg, we have community ring dikes and individual ring dikes all up and down the Red River Valley," he said.
"And yes there are impacts, and yes it's a major flood, but it is a very significantly different picture from 1950."
Some of the most recent and pressing flood issues have been in St. Adolphe, a community located about 30 kilometres south of Winnipeg.
More than 1,000 people living in the area have been given voluntary evacuation orders.