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Manitoba keeping a close eye on water levels

Alexandra Pope, staff writer

June 14, 2011 — A low stuck over the Prairies is dumping heavy rain on southern Manitoba. While flood-weary residents are on high alert, officials say the stormy weather may not cause significant problems.

Souris residents sandbagging earlier this spring
Souris residents sandbagging earlier this spring

People are anxiously watching water levels as heavy rain has been falling in southwestern Manitoba, and neighbouring southeastern Saskatchewan since the weekend.

The latest round of wet weather is the result of an “Omega block” pattern in the jet stream, in which two areas of high pressure are holding a low in place over the Prairies, explained Brian Dillon, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

“The pattern will start to widen and break up by Tuesday night, but the region will still be seeing pop-up showers and possible thunderstorms with daytime heating throughout the week,” he said.

People in Souris are once again shoring up their dikes in advance of an expected rise in water levels along the Assiniboine River. The good news is, the impact isn't expected to be as bad as originally thought.

After further analysis of the projected water flows on Monday, officials said that there is a slight improvement in expected conditions caused by the storm. According to a Media Bulletin from the Government of Manitoba, “The Assiniboine River dikes and the Portage Diversion channel will be able handle the flows as a result of the extensive work that has been undertaken to reinforce both these systems.”

Initially, the government considered re-opening a portion of the Assiniboine dike at Hoop and Holler Bend to alleviate pressure on dikes further downstream. However, officials stressed they will have to see what kind of impact the rainfall has on the river before they make any decisions.

Flood at Hoop and Holler Bend in May
Flood at Hoop and Holler Bend in May

Strong winds are affecting communities on the north portion of Lake Manitoba. High water levels have forced several evacuations in the area.

Residents from the rural municipality of St. Laurent attended a rally outside of the Manitoba legislature on Tuesday. They've been flooded out of their homes due to high water levels on Lake Manitoba and aren't happy with how the provincial government is handling the flood situation.

Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton addressed the crowd and assured proper compensation.

“I know many of you are cottage owners and I can tell you one thing. In other impacted areas where disaster financial assistance is in place, it does not apply to cottages. We recognize the unique circumstance on Lake Manitoba.”

Ashton says the flood of 2011 likely will be the most costly flood event in the province's history.

With files from Andrea Stockton and Lyndsay Morrison

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