A state of local emergency has been declared in the southern Manitoba city of Morden as rising water levels forced dozens of people from their homes, the city’s mayor says.
Brandon Burley said so far, about 50 residences have been affected, but that number is expected to rise amid a rainfall warning in place for much of the southern half of the province.
Flood crews are keeping a close eye on the area’s watershed, which was already high after significant rainfall last weekend. That rain melted accumulations of snow from a storm last month.
“The watershed was already standing road-high in many places with water. And so this is now … tipping the scale just a little too far,” Burley said.
“It will probably get worse before it gets better. But we’ve got a lot of crews and volunteers out helping out, so we’re going to do whatever we can to help people who are affected by this.”
Environment Canada said between 10 and 25 millimetres of rain is expected to fall over parts of southern Manitoba by Sunday.
One Morden neighbourhood that was evacuated on Saturday had already seen its bridge collapse during high water last weekend, Burley said.
Crews had built an emergency road coming out of that community, but people living there have now been asked to leave because of concerns about that road’s ability to support traffic over time, he said.
Burley urged people to heed the call if asked to leave their homes. Not leaving when you’re supposed to can jeopardize emergency services, he said.
“We did have some people who refused to leave their homes when emergency personnel came through and then who later called and said, ‘The water’s coming, maybe it’s time now.’ So we had to go back in,” he said.
“We don’t, you know, put out evacuation notices lightly, or state of emergencies.”
He also asked people to stay safe and not get too close to rising water while trying to take photos.
“It is fun to look at things like this, but as emergency personnel try to get out and around … it can become troublesome,” Burley said.
“People just have to stay safe. We don’t want people drowning or people getting too adventurous or curious.”
Emergency response operations are being run out of the Morden Civic Centre, Burley said, while people forced to leave their homes will be put up either on cots at the city’s Access Event Centre or nearby hotels if needed.
The high water is causing bridges and culverts that drain the nearby Deadhorse Creek through the area’s watershed to bottleneck, leading to overland flooding that’s threatening homes near the water, Burley said.
Several streets in northwest Morden were already closed on Saturday, while others starting to see high water may soon be blocked off too, he said.
Those living in high-risk areas that haven’t been evacuated yet are getting help from flood crews to sandbag around their homes. Burley said he expected to help fill and deliver those bags later Saturday.
For now, flood crews are taking things one step at a time.
“It will depend what happens in the next 24 hours with rainfall, really, in our watershed that will determine … whether or not we need to take more dramatic steps,” he said.
“Right now, we’re just dealing with what is here and preparing for what we think may be coming tonight and tomorrow.”