Prairie farmers, communities tackle flooding as more declare emergencies
Water sloshes around Jace Brown’s waist as he walks through his farmyard in the far southeastern corner of Saskatchewan, near the village of Carievale.
Brown’s land was submerged when a deluge of rain over the weekend caused widespread flooding in eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba.
“We’re surrounded here,” Brown said Wednesday. “We got a lot of stuff flooded out.”
He said he thinks communities cut through roads to ease flooding north of his land and that sent water south.
“It just pushed it all in here so fast that the bridge south of here couldn’t take it.”
Everything is under water except his house, which was saved because people in the community rallied to build a sandbag wall.
Carievale, population 250, was one of two Saskatchewan communities that remained cut off Wednesday. Access was also lost to the village of Gainsborough, population 300. People in both communities had been urged to leave earlier in the week.
Colin King, Saskatchewan’s deputy commissioner of emergency management, said roads to Gainsborough were “totally impassable,” but that was only part of the problem.
“As well, many, many, many of the homes there were severely impacted with overland flooding. There would be basements with a lot of water in them. There could be sewage backup,” King said Wednesday.
Emergency officials warned water levels were still rising in many areas of the southeast.
Flooding was still a threat to the hospital in Melville, Sask., about 145 kilometres northwest of Regina. A rising creek behind the facility led to a full-scale evacuation Tuesday of more than 150 acute-care patients and long-term residents.
Patrick Boyle with the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency said there will be “significant peaks” in water systems as the flood moves downstream, especially in the Lower Qu’Appelle River watershed, which extends from Regina to the Manitoba boundary.
“We’re very concerned about Round and Crooked Lakes in the Qu’Appelle system,” said Boyle. “These lakes are rising and we should see the peaks moving through over the next few days.”
Nearly 90 municipalities in Saskatchewan and Manitoba have declared states of emergency.
The Saskatchewan government estimated that more than 300 people were out of their homes in that province, while in Manitoba high water had forced some 500 people to flee.
Manitoba Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said at least 17 streams and rivers in his province were at historic levels. He said the province is using every flood-fighting tool available, including the Red River Floodway which diverts water around Winnipeg.
He noted the weather forecast is calling for hot, dry weather which will help the flood-fighting effort. The Assiniboine River was to continue rising, but permanent dikes are expected to protect the City of Brandon, he said.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was scheduled to tour the hardest hit areas Wednesday.
He said earlier that early estimates show the “unprecedented rainstorm and flooding” could cost more than the 2011 flood because it’s so widespread. That flood cost the province $360 million.
Brown said his cattle appear to be safe because they’re on a higher section of pasture. But it’s hard to tell how much of his crop is under water because he can’t get to at least half of it. Some land is under three metres of water. A river on his property that could normally be crossed by wearing rubber boots is now more than a 1/12 kilometres wide.
“The rivers down here are back the way God made them, like they’re back full, they’re back to the top. There’s no sloping grasslands, there’s no grazing on the river,” said Brown.
“They’re starting to drop, but it was quite the sight to see, that was boy. Nobody’s ever seen that, probably never will again.”