Flooding has forced evacuations in some parts of Manitoba after heavy rains caused rivers to swell.
The Peguis First Nation, about 150 kilometres north of Winnipeg, was placed under a mandatory evacuation order after ice jams on the Fisher River drove up water levels.
“We have probably 480 some-odd homes that are completely surrounded by water and roads have been breached,” Chief Glen Hudson said Monday.
More than 200 homes close to the river and housing nearly 900 people were evacuated. Residents were sent to hotels in nearby communities, including Selkirk, Gimli and Winnipeg.
“We have been seeing waters at unprecedented levels as far as the Fisher River watershed is concerned,” said Hudson, who added that water appears to be higher than during the community’s last major flood evacuation in 2011.
Albert Stevenson’s parents were among the Peguis residents sent to Winnipeg on the weekend, but he chose to stay in the community with his wife and daughter to try to protect their homes.
His house is on higher ground and so far hasn’t been affected.
“Right now we’re just checking sump pumps and pump the water out of the yards if we can,” he said by phone.
Stevenson said some who stayed behind are sandbagging homes that are not submerged.
“Waters have gone down a bit, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”
Chief and council of the neighbouring community of Fisher River Cree Nation issued a state of emergency over the weekend.
A community flood update posted online Monday afternoon said some high-risk residents were sent to other areas.
Russell Murdock said he hasn’t seen this level of flooding in the community in decades.
His home is about eight metres from the river, he said, and he’s been watching the water rise for three days. The Fisher River emergency response team set up a Tiger Dam — stacked, long tubes containing water — around his home two days ago.
“It’s just not doing a job right now. It’s been fruitless. But the guys did what they could,” said Murdock.
“So far, we’ve managed to keep the water to a certain level underneath the crawl space. Other than that, we’re coping.”
Manitoba’s minister responsible for emergency measures said the Interlake region, which includes Peguis and Fisher River, is causing the most concern.
“The snow really didn’t start melting. (It’s) a whole different, seemed like, climate,” Doyle Piwniuk said.
South of Winnipeg, water rose to cover some rural roads, requiring people to leave before losing road access.
“There’s about 24, 25 sites that will, at this present time, lose road access,” said Ralph Groening, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Morris.
The Manitoba government said some regions received four to six times the normal amount of precipitation in April, much of it in the form of snow that was melting at the same time as heavy rains fell on the weekend.
The forecast contained some good news. Dry, warm weather was predicted for the remainder of the week.
The Red River Valley, including Winnipeg, Morris and other areas, is largely protected by community dikes and diversion channels that were expanded after the so-called flood of the century in 1997.
Communities and homes in the valley are protected to a water level 60 centimetres or more above the 1997 peak.
“Other than what might be some inconvenience and (road) closures, I would suggest we’re confident that our community property is protected,” Groening said.
The forecast promised some welcome relief. Dry, warm weather was predicted for most of Manitoba for the remainder of the week.
The Peguis First Nation said a response team will help evacuate residents with mobility challenges. It said all evacuees must be registered before leaving the community at its emergency operations centre at the Peguis Multiplex or by calling 204-645-2869.
Further details of the evacuation order can be found on the First Nation’s website.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2022.