Flood control intensifies in Minnedosa amid heavy rains


Flood control continues in parts of western Manitoba.

And with a rain warning In place due to a weather system expected to bring 30 to 40 millimeters by Friday morning, residents of the southwestern city of Minnedosa frantically sandbagd and pumped water throughout a downpour on Thursday as the Little Saskatchewan River rose slightly.

Lisa Bilcowski, volunteer coordinator for Minnedosa Emergency Social Services, said about 1,000 volunteers came from all over to help.

She said so far about 50,000 sandbags have been filled and stacked in the community, about 200 kilometers west of Winnipeg.

Lisa Bilcowski, volunteer coordinator for Minnedosa Emergency Social Services, says the city still needs more volunteers to help with sandbags. (Gilbert Rowan/Radio Canada)

Among the volunteers were people from nearby Hutterite settlements and other communities, and even a geography teacher and eight students from the community of Roblin, about 150 kilometers to the northwest.

On Wednesday alone, around 200 people came out to help, Bilcowski said.

“Our community is coming out in droves. We’re incredibly grateful for that.”

But the crews are tired, she said, calling for more help to fight the flood.

WATCH | Minnedosa Flood Response:

Flood control continues in western Manitoba

With a rain warning in place ahead of a weather system expected to bring 30 to 40 millimeters by Friday morning, residents of the town of Minnedosa, Manitoba are frantically sandbagging and pumping water throughout of downpour as the Little Saskatchewan River rises slightly Thursday. .

“We’ve been working on it for a few days,” Bilcowski said. “People are tired. People are in pain. People have their own jobs to go back to, don’t they?”

Volunteers wishing to help have been asked to report to the town’s public works shop, according to the post on the city’s Facebook page.

Currently, volunteers are using sandbags to reinforce the levees on the north and south sides of the river to hold back water from nearby homes and businesses.

Minnedosa resident Heather Hamilton says she did her best to keep floodwaters out of her home. But the sandbag dike she, her family and volunteers built was not high enough for the rising waters. (Travis Golby/CBC)

For homeowners like Minnedosa resident Heather Hamilton, fears of further flooding are always on the mind.

Hamilton said she had done her best to prevent floodwaters from entering her home.

But the sandbag dike she, her family and volunteers worked to build was not high enough. Now his basement, like many others on his street, has been flooded – and not long after his family finally completed repairs after a flood in 2020.

They managed to keep the water to about an inch with two sump pumps running, but if one stops, the water rises quickly to knee level, she said.

“Now all of a sudden here we are again,” said Hamilton, who has lived in his home for about 20 years.

“We’re going to have to totally empty our basement again.”

More help has now arrived in the community, with heavy machinery placing extra large sandbags between homes like Hamilton’s and the Little Saskatchewan River.

Grade 12 student Austin Taylor is among those spending the week sandbagging in Minnedosa. (Travis Golby/CBC)

And volunteers like Austin Taylor didn’t let the heavy rain stop them from piling up more sandbags themselves.

“I’ve lived here all my life and it’s just nice to see everyone hanging out,” said the Grade 12 student, who had volunteered to help fight the flood since Monday.

Prime Minister visits flooded town

City officials also had the ears of Premier Heather Stefanson and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk on Thursday.

The province has already released some pressure on the Minnedosa Dam, which is raising water levels in the city, but it may still need to release more.

“This is a very serious situation. We take all of this very seriously. We are here to support the community here in any way we can,” Stefanson told a news conference.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson and Minnedosa General Manager Jim Doppler are pictured during a flood news conference on Thursday. (Gilbert Rowan/Radio Canada)

Minnedosa Chief Administrative Officer Jim Doppler also spoke alongside provincial officials and said the city is ready for the additional water it is expected to receive.

Doppler said flood crews are still working to reinforce levees in parts of the city in case water levels rise with rainfall. But at this point, there are no concerns about the dam itself.

“It’s about managing the flow of water and, of course, how well our embankment can handle that flow,” Doppler said.

“We do reinforcement, just so we don’t have a problem.”

Piwniuk said once the water subsides, it might be time to consider improving flood mitigation infrastructure.

“Every time we see a flood, there’s always something we can improve on, isn’t there?” he said alongside Stefanson.

“Each flood is totally different from the next. And because [of] our uniqueness, because of the snow we had, [and] rain, we have to see what we have to invest in.”

Hamilton said she felt extra measures like the bigger sandbags came too late to save her home. She wants to see more permanent flood protection that will be able to withstand similar floods in the future.

“It’s scary,” she said. “Something has to be done. Something has to be fixed. We can’t live like this anymore.”