As southern Manitoba saw a deluge of rain this weekend that forced people in several communities from their homes due to flooding, the province said the region saw four to six times the normal amount of precipitation this spring.
Southern and southeastern Manitoba, along with the portion of the Red River basin in the United States, have received 120 to 160 millimetres of snow and rain since April 1 — which is between 400 to 600 per cent of normal, the province said in a flood bulletin on Sunday evening.
The same region received a basin-wide average of 40 to 50 millimetres of rainfall over the past 48 hours alone, according to the province.
“The province remains in a high state of readiness for 2009 spring flood levels in the Red River Valley between Emerson and the Red River floodway inlet,” the bulletin read.
Meanwhile, the rising water levels this weekend forced the evacuations of homes in several southern Manitoba communities.
South of Winnipeg in the rural municipality of Ritchot, 90 homes have been given voluntary evacuation notices as of Sunday — up two from the day before — and only 10 have left, said Mayor Chris Ewen.
He believes most people are staying put because they’ve seen similar floods in the past, including the worst one in 1997.
“We’ve gone through this. All the infrastructure is in place to ensure safety around the St. Adolphe area. The ring dike’s in play. We have the floodway now so more water can be taken. So people feel a lot more comfortable staying home,” Ewen said.
“They’ve done their due diligence. They’re making sure that they’re prepared for this.”
Evacuations in Morris, Dufferin
In the rural municipality of Morris, about 30 residences had been identified for evacuation as of Saturday morning, reeve Ralph Groening said.
Those sites were marked because they may soon lose road access, and because their inhabitants had to leave their homes during flooding in 2009 and 2011 — which Groening said was the last time the community saw water as high as it’s getting now.
“This is not a new exercise for many, but we have some new residents. So we will work with them to ensure that they remain safe and encourage relocation,” Groening told CBC’s Weekend Morning Show guest host Keisha Paul.
Morris was one of six rural municipalities to declare a local state of emergency earlier this week. But as of Saturday evening, the rural municipality of Dufferin was also added to that list, said reeve George Gray.
Gray said only about six families have had to leave their homes in that community, but more evacuations could still happen.
“I’ve never seen the water any higher and it’s coming very quickly,” he said.
The area’s community hall has been set up as an emergency measures site, where people displaced by flooding can register and find a place to stay and a cup of coffee, he said.
Reeve Paul GIlmore of the RM of Montcalm says 40 households were asked to evacuate, and 30 complied.
He’s concerned for the remaining 10, so RCMP have been called on to monitor their safety.
“We remain vigilant with the situation,” he said.
Unofficial rainfall amounts from Environment Canada Sunday morning show the town of Carman, in the municipality of Dufferin, was hit hard by the recent rainfall.
It got about 58.4 millimetres. In comparison, the southeastern community of Kleefeld — about 44 kilometres from Morris — got an estimated 35.6 millimetres.
A bit further south, the city of Morden had a boil water advisory declared for its public water system early Sunday afternoon, after poorly treated water was allowed to enter the distribution system.
In some parts of the province, water rising up onto the road led highways to be closed. A full list of those closures is available on the province’s website.
Community ‘will take on the fight together’
Groening said knowing how the community handled the 1997 flood of the century gives him confidence they can adequately respond to the challenges they face now.
“We will take on the fight together,” he said.
“Our residents are weary. They’re weary, but they’re ready to respond. And as are we [as] the council, as our public works staff, administration and emergency coordinator — we are prepared and we have plans in place to deal with what looks like another week and a half of flood threat.”
LISTEN | RM of Morris declared a state of local emergency last week:
The Weekend Morning Show (Manitoba)8:25RM of Morris declared a state of local emergency last week
For Morris-area farmer David Hamblin, the downpour in parts of southern Manitoba in recent weeks has been tough.
Of the roughly 4,000 acres he farms, about 500 were underwater on Saturday — a number he said he expects to continue climbing.
“We need the rain to stop and we need the sun to come out and some heat. The big thing is just getting the water moving and off of the fields,” said Hamblin, whose family owns Red River Seeds.
Hamblin said the high water levels will mean a much later crop planting date — and a significant drop in yield expectation. With the latest flood forecast, he said he doesn’t expect to have all his crops planted until June.
Warmer weather ahead
Despite the rain, the rural municipality of Morris may now have the weather on its side, Groening said.
While the area did get a lot of rain, the amount that fell was actually less than was forecast — and the warmer temperatures coming up will help too.
Environment Canada meteorologist Dan Fulton said highs will approach 20 degrees — then surpass that mark with a 23-degree high forecast in some areas for Friday.
“The storm is basically over,” Fulton said. “We’re actually looking at a dry week and actually getting warm — almost, I dare say, hot — with the highs.”
Fulton said the recent precipitation reached historic levels. Winnipeg saw 118 millimetres this April — the most the city has gotten in April since 1896, when 143 millimetres fell.
“It’s almost like a once-in-a-lifetime-type wet April,” he said. “It was the wettest April that anyone alive can remember.”
As for Groening, he’s also counting on the sense of togetherness that flood fighting can create to help Morris get through the rest of the flood season.
“[You have] a common enemy or you have a common threat…. It allows us to develop pretty considerable focus in order to respond to the events,” he said.
“We have great residents, great staff, great people. We’re not alone in this.”
Groening said a public meeting will likely be held in the coming days to give residents a chance to ask questions about flood response.