The cost of the damage from flooding in southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba could exceed the $360 million cost associated with the flooding that hit the region in 2011, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says.

More than 95 communities have declared a state of emergency in the wake of the flooding. The area was hit by torrential rainfall over the weekend, with local officials reporting more than 240 millimetres in Saskatchewan and more than 100 mm in Manitoba.

It appears, however, that water levels hit their high mark on Tuesday and are starting to recede, CTV’s Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks reported Wednesday.

“What officials are hoping is that they’re going to have a week of dryness, of warm weather,” Dirks said Wednesday morning. “And then when things dry out they will get a sense of what the damages will be.”

More than 500 people have been forced to leave their homes, including 150 acute-care patients who have been moved from a long-term care facility in Melville, Sask. In nearby Gainsborough, nearly 90 per cent of the village is underwater and all 250 residents are out of their homes.

Some are staying in a makeshift shelter in a neighbouring town, while others have driven their campers to safe ground. Residents not affected by flooding have also opened their homes or loaned their campers to those who have been forced to flee.

Wall toured the flood zone near Melville Wednesday afternoon, saying it was difficult to describe what he saw from the air “in terms of just the amount of water that is literally everywhere.”

He said Saskatchewan has completed many flood prevention program over the last few years, but this storm was unprecedented.

“Are we ever going to have infrastructure that proofs us against nine inches of rain in 48 hours? Probably not,” Wall said.

Kris Carley, Emergency Measures Operations Co-ordinator for the nearby town of Carnduff, said his agency is co-ordinating getting supplies into Gainsborough. The top priority is to keep the main road to Gainsborough open to get supplies through.

Members of the Carnduff fire department are in Gainsborough helping local crews pump water, and they are “starting to see progress,” Carley told CTV News Channel. Houses have been sandbagged and sewers that backed up have been cleared and are under control. The Red Cross is now in the town, helping evacuees.

At least 17 streams and rivers in Manitoba were at historic levels, said Steve Ashton, the province’s Emergency Measures Minister.

Ashton said after record levels of precipitation, the storm over the weekend caused even more problems.

“What we’re dealing with now is a surge of water coming in from that storm,” he said.

‘Major setback’ for farmers

While the flooding has forced residents from their homes, it also represents “a major setback” for local farmers, whose work was already delayed by prolonged winter weather.

Farmers in Manitoba were in trouble before the flooding, Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, told CTV’s Canada AM. One million acres of farmland in the province went unseeded this spring because of the cold weather, late thaw and prevailing wet conditions.

“The devastation will be quite severe and we predict it’s going to be a major setback for these communities,” Chorney said of the flooding. “It’s not just farmland. It’s their homes that are in jeopardy, yard sites and all the things they’ve built up over their lifetimes.”

It is “difficult” for farmers to consider alternatives at this late stage of the season, Chorney said. Usually by this time, farmers are trying to cope with dry conditions, where winds can blow dry soil around.

And it is “definitely” too late to re-seed crops, he said.

Governments in the Prairie provinces must address surface water management, he said, particularly because flooding is becoming more common in the region.

“We need to really look at treating the problem instead of responding to symptoms over and over again,” Chorney said.

Water retention and wetland restoration projects will help hold back some of the water, he said, “so that it doesn’t have the velocity you see hitting communities.”

With files from The Canadian Press