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'Not out of the woods yet': Officials expect high water to stay around for awhile

WINNIPEG -- A leak in the west bank of the Portage Diversion was plugged Thursday, reducing fears of a serious breach, Manitoba Emergency Organization Measures Minister Steve Ashton said Thursday.

WINNIPEG -- A leak in the west bank of the Portage Diversion was plugged Thursday, reducing fears of a serious breach, Manitoba Emergency Organization Measures Minister Steve Ashton said Thursday.

But he and flood officials cautioned just because the bank is stabilized, or that levels on the Assiniboine River are slowly declining, it doesn't mean the flood is over.

Ashton said as the crest moves east through Headingley and Winnipeg, upstream communities will still see flows above 20,000 cfs until the end of the month.

"We're not out of the woods yet," Ashton said.

Ashton also said the province won't close its "controlled release" of the Assiniboine at the Hoop and Holler Bend until its safe. The province began deliberately flooding farmland southeast of Portage la Prairie last Saturday to decrease pressure of high water flows on the river's dikes and on the diversion.


"It's still operating as we speak with minimal flows," he said, adding closing it will be assessed today. "We actually could close it in a matter of hours if we needed to. We will stop that controlled release as soon as we can."

Steve Topping, Manitoba's top flood fighter, said as the river slowly declines -- about six inches already in Brandon -- less water is also flowing into the Portage Diversion.

"We have seen drops in the diversion flows," Topping said. "About 500 cfs dropped off in the diversion, naturally."

That's a ray of hope for people who live and have cottages on the Lake Manitoba, who started battling rising water a week ago.

EMO executive director Chuck Sanderson said 100 soldiers have joined homeowners and volunteers in Delta Beach, Twin Beaches and St. Laurent to help sandbag.

Disaster assistance

Ashton added the province will release details of its disaster assistance program Tuesday. The program provides assistance to help homeowners, tenants, farmers, small business owners, non-profit organizations and municipal governments to restore property after a disaster. So far, 237 private applications have been received, 185 of which are being processed. There have been 84 municipal claims filed.

Sanderson said property owners should take pictures of damages, save receipts for repairs to their property, keep an inventory of anything they throw out or dispose of and contact their insurance company as well as the disaster assistance program.


A special compensation program is also being finalized for homeowners and producers affected by the Hoop and Holler controlled release.

Flood notes

  • Over the past two weeks, up to 70,000 to 150,000 sandbags a day have been placed along sections of the dikes along the Assiniboine River. Nine military and civil helicopters were lifting sandbags -- sling-loading -- into isolated areas of the dikes, including two heavy-lift helicopters from B.C.
  • The controlled release point at the Hoop and Holler Bend on the Assiniboine River is diverting approximately 400 cubic feet per second. As of Thursday morning, the flooded area covered 2.12 square miles. Water continues to move east to the Elm River and eventually to the La Salle River. In most places, it's about a foot deep.
  • There are 3,360 Manitobans evacuated from their homes, with 1,391 evacuated on a precautionary basis in Brandon. New evacuees are from Lake St. Martin First Nation, Dauphin River First Nation and Long Plain First Nation.
  • So far, 1,236 evacuees from the Red River valley have returned home, while 95 evacuees are still out of their homes.
  • About 365,000 sandbags have been sent into the area and two sandbagging machines are making more.
  • There are more than 1,600 Canadian Forces personnel helping with flood-fighting efforts; approximately 1,300 regular army, 130 navy, 70 air force and 200 army reserve personnel.
  • Inflow upstream of Portage la Prairie is 51,450 cfs. Flows in the Portage Diversion channel at noon Thursday were at 33,160 cfs, more than what it was designed to handle. Flows on the Assiniboine River at the Portage Reservoir control gates are 18,290 cfs.

Flows into the Portage Reservoir crested twice, once May 14 at 52,300 cfs and again Wednesday at 52,000 cfs. Flows are expected to fall by about 1,000 cfs per day over the next few days.
Winnipeg Free Press stories appear in the Herald through special arrangement.

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