Lisa Varano, staff writer
May 10, 2011 — In addition to a local state of emergency that was declared in Brandon Sunday, a provincial state of emergency was issued on Monday with the threat of severe flooding.
Manitoba issued a provincial state of emergency Monday to deal with the threat of flooding along the Assiniboine River in the city of Portage la Prairie. The rural municipalities of Portage la Prairie, Woodlands, Rosser, St. Francois Xavier, Headingley, Cartier, Macdonald and Grey are at risk.
This is the first time since 1997 that the province has declared a flood state of emergency. Crews are raising dikes by an additional two feet to help accommodate high flows.
There's a risk that an uncontrolled dike breach could occur along the Assiniboine River between Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg. An uncontrolled breach has the potential to affect 500 square kilometres.
To help prevent the chance of an uncontrolled breach, a controlled release of water could take place as early as Wednesday. Less than 150 homes would be affected by a controlled release.
Emergency Measures officials say there is a significant amount of water flowing through the Assiniboine near Portage la Prairie.
“What we're looking at over the next number of days, even without precipitation, flows of 52,000 cubic feet per second will mean with rainfall we could be seeing as much as 56,000 cfs. To put it into perspective, the rate of capacity in the Portage diversion is 25,000--that's our normal experience with the Portage diversion,” says Manitoba Emergency Measures Minister, Steve Ashton.
The city of Brandon is under a local state of emergency as the Assiniboine river has already reached record levels.
The city is raising super sandbags, flood barriers and earthen dikes to fight the flood. Emergency measures officials say close to 800 military personnel could be working in different flood zones by Wednesday.
Dangerously high water levels on the Assiniboine River have displaced hundreds of people. More than 300 homes and businesses in the city of Brandon are under a mandatory evacuation order. Meanwhile, around 500 other homes and businesses are on evacuation standby as floodwaters continue rising. Officials say the evacuation is a precautionary measure in case flood waters breach the dikes in place.
More water than expected is approaching the city of 40,000 people, two-and-a-half hours west of Winnipeg. Heavy rain in the forecast could make the flood worse. Brandon may see up to 50 mm of rain this week.
Brandon's local emergency was declared on Sunday to “contend with severe flooding,” according to the city's website. The emergency is in effect until May 21.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger toured flooded areas around Brandon on Sunday, the same day as the city put out another call for volunteers to help with sandbagging. Selinger says millions of dollars are being used to prevent any significant damage.
“The fact of the matter is, is that as we put additional measures in place it will cost us probably some millions more to do it this year. We will ensure that Brandon is not left holding the bag on this, they will get all the support they need to make sure they can effectively battle this flood.”
Water levels on the Assiniboine river in Brandon have exceeded the record set in 1923, the province said in a recent Manitoba flood bulletin.
With files from Matt Casey and Andrea Stockton