Southern Manitobans struggle to keep floodwaters at bay with more rain on the way

·4 min read
A crew works to fill sandbags at DL Seeds outside of Morden, Man. on Sunday, April 24, 2022. (Submitted by Tanya Mullin - image credit)
A crew works to fill sandbags at DL Seeds outside of Morden, Man. on Sunday, April 24, 2022. (Submitted by Tanya Mullin - image credit)

Overland and river flooding in southern Manitoba washed away roads and seeped into houses as sandbagging and pump crews worked to protect properties across the region.

In the town of Altona, 92 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, firefighter Brent Krahn said he saw people using a boat to get to houses that had become surrounded by water.

"They had a truck parked on the other side of the water and they had a canoe or a little raft going across," he said.

Krahn and another firefighter, Craig Braun, were out sanding driveways in the area on Monday. They and other volunteers had spent the weekend operating pumps and sandbagging in an effort to keep Buffalo Creek to the northwest from flooding the town.

Mayor Al Friesen said a resident reported the creek had risen four feet in a single day over the weekend, but water levels appeared to have stabilized, for now at least.

"We're kind of holding our own … but the weather is a big factor in what's going to happen in the next 24 or 48 hours, or even potentially this weekend," he said.

Sam Samson/CBC
Sam Samson/CBC

Much of the Red River Valley remains under an overland flood warning, according to the Manitoba Hydrologic Forecast Centre.

Over the weekend, the area received 76 millimetres of rain, and due to the already saturated ground, the water had nowhere to go — except across fields and into people's basements.

Open fields resembling lakes froze over Monday morning.

Altona expected to get 25,000 sandbags and a kilometre of inflatable tiger dams delivered Monday.

CBC meteorologist John Sauder predicts another Colorado low will hit the province on Thursday, which could bring another 10 centimetres of snow and 10 millimetres of rain.

Friesen hopes the colder temperatures hang on long enough to allow some of the water to dissipate.

"If we're able to get in a slow melt again, if we're able to, you know, allow this water to work its way through the system, then that's a good thing," said Friesen.

'A little scary'

Dave Carlson, Reeve of the Municipality of Emerson-Franklin along the U.S. border, says the wild weather this year just doesn't seem to want to end.

"Especially this time of year, we just don't see this water like this usually. Normally by mid-April, it's moved all through, if its a flood year, but here we are it's almost May and we're still dealing with this," he said.

It was "a little scary" over the weekend but the region avoided the brunt of the Colorado low that hit the area the week before.

"I think we kind of got off a little easier than some areas further west ... but now the water tables, it's fully saturated," he said.

There are eight closures in the area, but so far no reports of basements flooding. The municipality is waiting on information from the province on a second Red River crest moving north from the U.S., and they may have to close access points into town through the ring dikes that protect properties from the Red River.

The U.S. National Weather Service predicts the Red will crest at Grand Forks, N.D. on Wednesday six feet below the level of the 1997 Flood of the Century. The crest is expected at Pembina, N.D. and Emerson, Man. around May 2, about five feet below the 1997 flood.

Every Manitoba community in the Red River Valley has ring-dike infrastructure designed to protect against a flood two feet higher than the 1997 deluge.

Some Manitobans shared images of roads swept away in floodwaters, like Huron Road, south of Highway 423 and east of Crystal City, Man.

Meanwhile, at the DL Seeds head office northeast of Morden, employees, their families and people from the area spent the day on Sunday setting up sandbags, but that didn't prevent some water from leaking under doors and into buildings.

Submitted by Tanya Mullin
Submitted by Tanya Mullin

Field agronomist Jesse Mutcheson said he was sent photos of the scene, but didn't grasp the severity of the flooding until he got there.

"It's something I'd never seen before," Mutcheson said.

No equipment was damaged by the water, he said, and he appreciates the response from people, some of whom saw posts about the flooding on social media.

"That shows the power and generosity of small town, rural Manitoba for sure," he said.

After experiencing a drought last year, Mutcheson said this spring's flood is a "be careful what you wish for" scenario, although he doesn't expect it to delay the start of planting season for farmers too much.

"Some guys like to get their cereals in right now, but I think if we get some good weather and some sunshine pretty soon I think people will be surprised how quick this water could get away," he said.