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Floods frustrate Saskatchewan residents

Alexandra Pope and Andrea Stockton, staff writers

June 24, 2011 — More southern Saskatchewan communities declare emergencies as flood-weary residents hope for a break.

Estevan has seen almost a year's worth of rain in under two months
Estevan has seen almost a year's worth of rain in under two months

Trapped. Stuck. Frustrated. Crazy.

These are just some of the words residents of southern Saskatchewan have been using to describe their feelings about the severe flooding that has forced more than 850 of them from their homes in the past week.

Wolseley is the latest town to declare a state of emergency, bringing the total to 26.

Officials in Wolseley say several businesses on the south end of town have been swamped, and although water levels appeared to have receded by Thursday morning, another downpour could spell disaster.

“Our biggest challenge is the water comes from quite a wide area to the southeast and all this flows down,” says Wolseley Mayor, Dennis Fjestad. “And even if there is a slight shower here, it could have a significant impact if we have more water or more rain in the southeast part of town.”

It's the same story in communities across the waterlogged region.

Last Friday, officials were forced to increase outflows from dams as heavy rain caused flash flooding in Weyburn.

People in Estevan have been battling flood waters since late last week as well. The city has already seen close to a year's worth of rainfall since May 1.

Kim Marshall, who lives in the nearby town of Bienfait, said the flooding has made it practically impossible to get around.

“In order to get to a road that's not under water, we have to go north to end up going south of town. A lot of people we know have lost homes and people have been evacuated from a trailer park in Estevan...If we get much more rain, we're going to be stuck, we're not going to be able to get to town,” she said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Officials say the floodwaters may have peaked in Estevan, but that doesn't mean the worst is over. Marshall said the disaster has dealt a huge blow to the community's morale.

“It's just crazy. Everybody's frustrated and stressed and just praying for the rain to end,” she said. “I know there's a few (people) that have decided to walk away at the end of all this.”

The influx of water is even having an impact south of the border: on Wednesday, 11,000 people in Minot, North Dakota were forced to leave their homes as water from the Souris River began spilling over the dikes.

Aerial views of flooding in Oxbow, SK
Aerial views of flooding in Oxbow, SK

More rain on the way?

Southern Saskatchewan is in for yet more rain through the remainder of the week.

A low developing off a trough in northern British Columbia is bringing scattered showers and embedded thunderstorms to southwestern Saskatchewan through Friday.

It's difficult to say how much rain will fall, says Gerald Cheng, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

“Because we're getting some thundershowers embedded with this low, some areas could get a lot of rainfall in a short time.”

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has promised government relief for communities affected by the flooding. Early payments of 3,000 dollars are already available for property damage. The province said residents will receive payment within two weeks of applications being filed.

With files from the Canadian Press

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