Communities, farmers in Manitoba’s Red River Valley brace for crest and more rain

R.M. OF RITCHOT –

Just north of Ste. Agathe, Man., grain and hog producer Fred Fast pulled up in a boat on the east side of Highway 200 (St. Mary’s Road) to leave his yard.

His home is dry but his cropland has been flooded and so is the access road he normally uses to drive out and back into his yard.

And with more rain the forecast later this week, he’s worried the land may remain under water for some time to come.

“On the grain end of it, it’s just going to be so long before we get on the land,” Fast said. “For me, I’m boating into my house. It’s inconvenient. I chose where I was going to live and the house is high so it’s fine.”

The province has issued an overland flood watch for southern and central parts of the province due to a series of precipitation systems expected to hit Manitoba this week, including one which already dumped approximately 20 millimetres of rain on Winnipeg Monday.

According to R.M. of Ritchot Mayor Chris Ewen, 196 evacuation notices had been issued as of Tuesday with 80 homes evacuated. Many others, like Fast, are staying in their homes and using boats or vehicles to get in and out.

For Fast, it’s the impact on growers and producers that have him most worried.

“I’m concerned about the grain end of it,” Fast said. “This is pretty late.”

That is because it could be several weeks before the water recedes allowing farmers access their fields.

A bit farther south along the Red River in the R.M of Morris, Reeve Ralph Groening echoed some of those sentiments.

“There’s not really much we can do about that other than, once the water goes down we begin to clear debris out of the ditches and that sort of stuff but yeah for the moment the agriculture community is absolutely concerned,” Groening said during an interview in Morris, which is closed off to normal traffic flows on a usually busy Highway 75.

Groening said about 25 homes have been evacuated due to flooding, leaving approximately 100 people displaced.

He expected the river would crest in Morris Tuesday without taking into account the impact of Monday’s rainfall.

Among those bracing for a possible rise in water revels is fourth-generation egg producer Harley Siemens, whose main farm just south of Rosenort, Man., which has 25,000 laying hens, is now essentially an island due to flooding on the Red River.

“I think we are going to get a little bit more water. Just hopefully not too much and as fast as it comes that’s as fast as it could go away,” Siemens said.

His wife and children are staying in town under a voluntary evacuation notice because all roads out of their place — south, east, north and west — are now under water.

They can still get in from the west using a truck with high clearance but maybe not for much longer.

He said they have enough space to store extra feed on the farm —about a month’s worth — and can store eggs for approximately two to three weeks.

Siemens said the egg truck usually comes twice a week but the truck is only coming once a week right now due to road access issues.

As for Fast, he said his hogs are fine but getting to them isn’t easy.

“With all the rain and stuff, it’s just been getting the trucks and stuff which has been really tricky,” Fast said. “And we do export hogs going south, so the freight is crazy now with the detour around Morris.” 

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