Sandbaggers wanted: Brandon residents asked to help save home from floodwaters

The City of Brandon is searching for 50 volunteers to sandbag a home at risk of flooding due to the rising Assiniboine River.

Resident Dave Barnes said 4,500 sandbags have been brought in to protect his home on Rosser Ave East.

"The water's coming very fast," Barnes said.

Barnes' property flooded both in 2011 and 2014. "It was madness. It was really quite a marathon."

Volunteers are being asked to show up Sunday at 10 a.m. 

Rising water levels on the Assinboine have prompted Brandon to close Grand Valley Road at 18th Street North. 

Workers are installing a clay plug at the intersection. Aquadams are being put up on First Street to keep it open, and so far it looks like 18th Street North will remain open, city officials said in a release Saturday. 

"Certainly the river rising as rapidly as it seems to be is a cause for concern, but we have all the systems and plans and things in place to manage it, so that's what we're in the process of doing right now," said Brian Kayes, Brandon's director of risk and emergency management. 

"Closing the Grand Valley Road is something that just closes the gap in the dike, and it's planned to be put into place when the river reaches the levels that it's at now." 

As of 9 a.m. Saturday morning, the Assiniboine River level was sitting at 1,175.80 feet above sea level, measured at First Street. Officials expect the river to rise five more feet before cresting between April 9 and 11.

Brandon's dike system is at an elevation of 1,186 feet above sea level — three feet higher than river levels in 2014, and just more than 10 feet higher than current levels.

The crest will be two to three feet less than 2014, Kayes said. 

"By the time we're at this level, this is pretty well it," Kayes said. "For us, it's a lot of vigilance and making sure the safeguards that we have in place are doing what they're intended to do."

Truckloads of clay

Just in case, Brandon has placed additional pumps along the river dike system to activate if the water keeps rising. The city's also inserting what engineers call a "plug" — part of Brandon's dike that needs to be filled in during flooding events. 

"The dike is designed with an opening in it so the street can go through it ... when the river comes up to a certain level, we need to close that opening," Kayes said.

"It's truckloads and truckloads of clay that get dumped in there and pounded into shape."

The road will likely remain closed past the crest early this week. 

"Trying to drive at night, even if you just have an inch of water over the road, it looks like a lake — so you really wouldn't have any idea where the roadway was," Kayes said. "So I'm pretty sure it'll be closed until the water goes down."

The community is holding a meeting this afternoon to update residents about the flood response. The biggest thing, Kayes said, is asking people to stay away from the construction areas. 

Water heading east

Downstream of the Portage Diversion, flows have held steady at 9,000 cubic feet per second, but are expected to reach 11,000 cfs today because the Souris River — still under a flood watch — is peaking at the same time, the province said in its latest flood update.

The lower Assiniboine could reach 15,000 cfs as early as April 10, according to the Saturday update from flood officials. As a result, a flood watch remains in effect for the area between Portage la Prairie and Headingley.

A flood warning has been lifted for Birdtail Creek, Rock Lake and Dauphin Lake, but remains in effect for the upper Assiniboine River from the Shellmouth Dam to Holland and for Pelican Lake, the Pembina River, Oak Lake and the Souris River. Flows at Windygates peaked yesterday.

A high water advisory is still in place for the Carrot River due to the backwater effect of ice jamming. It's expected to crest in Saskatchewan between April 11 and 14. 

Ice is still in place on northern rivers and tributaries, while most rivers in southern Manitoba are ice free. The water level at James Avenue in Winnipeg is expected to hold steady at 17 to 18 feet above normal winter ice levels.