Water levels drop in Peguis First Nation, but flood control far from over

After nearly two weeks, the water is finally receding in Peguis First Nation, but officials say the community is not out of the woods yet.

Those who stayed in the community of Interlake, Manitoba during the worst flooding this spring are tired, but happy to see that the water is starting to recede.

This includes Kim Sutherland, whose family has spent the past week and a half working almost 24/7 to save their home, using six pumps and a Tiger Dam – a series of water-filled tubes that create a barrier to retain flood waters.

Sutherland said her family had a chance to leave, but she said she couldn’t bear the thought of losing her home.

Kim Sutherland says she is relieved to have been able to save her home, but is heartbroken for those who weren’t so lucky. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

She, her husband and her son “struggled to keep that water out of the house,” she said. “It was tiring. We never slept.”

Sutherland says she feels relieved to see the water recede, but feels sorry for her neighbors who were forced to leave.

“It broke my heart.”

The water around Kim Sutherland’s home had receded on Friday, but she says her family worked non-stop to keep her out. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Reynold Smith and his team also worked virtually non-stop for nearly two weeks, setting up tiger dams around homes.

Their crew worked alone to protect 21 homes.

“So we’re just going to fix the ones we had trouble with because the water was so deep,” he said. “We are working [in] waist deep…water, so it was pretty tough.”

Smith says he’s relieved to see the water starting to recede and hopes there won’t be any more ominous rains to come.

Reynold Smith and his team have been setting up tiger dams like this around Peguis First Nation for the past 10 days. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Light rain Thursday evening

Manitoba’s hydrological forecast center had estimated between 20 and 50 millimeters of rain for most of the southern and central parts of the province over three days, beginning Thursday evening.

However, on Friday morning, Peguis and the rest of the Interlake only saw between 5 and 10 millimeters, according to Environment Canada.

It was a bit of a relief for the community, which declared a state of emergency on April 28 and issued an evacuation order on May 1, after flooding from the Fisher River washed away roads and ruptured levees.

Nearly 1,900 people had to evacuate the First Nation and are now living outside hotels. Peguis, Manitoba’s largest First Nation, typically has just over 3,500 members usually living on reserve.

Indigenous Services Canada said Friday that no further evacuations from Peguis were planned.

Although the community has gotten some respite from the rainy weather, it’s still too early to tell when evacuees might return home, Chief Glenn Hudson said Thursday.

The water along the Fisher River is always above the banks of the river, he said.

“The risk has not completely diminished. We still have to do the work to protect our community.”

A house, protected by a dike, sits below the Peguis First Nation waterline on May 6. Chief Glenn Hudson says it’s too early to tell when evacuees will be able to return home. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

But the First Nation is working on it, setting up teams to assess homes, he said.

“There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes to try to accommodate people.”

Cleaning will also be expensive. On Friday, Hudson said early estimates suggest it could cost more than $150 million to repair or replace community homes and infrastructure.

Relieved and sorry. Flood control far from over in Peguis First Nation

Residents of Peguis First Nation are feeling some relief as floodwaters continue to recede. Kim Sutherland and her family have decided not to evacuate, even though their home is in the flood zone. She says she, her husband and her son worked around the clock to keep the water going.