High water threatens Ritchot, Emerson as communities await Red River crest

Last weekend’s storm, which brought high amounts of rain and snow to much of southern Manitoba, now has some Manitoba communities on high alert, as they brace for rising waters and the possibility of flooding.

On Tuesday, a state of emergency was called in the RM of Ritchot, a municipality that sits southeast of Winnipeg.

Ritchot Mayor Chris Ewen said they are concerned about both overland flooding, and the possibility that high waters coming from the Red River could spill into some communities and threaten homes.

He said calling the state of emergency allows officials to make quick decisions on evacuating residents and on taking other measures, including closing roads if needed.

“This local state of emergency gives our coordinators the power to make those quick decisions, because at the end of the day what is most important is keeping everyone safe,” Ewen said.

Ewen said there have not been evacuations in the community as of Wednesday morning, but added that if they do tell people to get out of their homes in the coming days, they should get out as soon as possible before facing a dangerous or possibly life-threatening situation.

“We want to make sure we can call residents and say, ‘you should be evacuating,’ and if they choose not to, then we have done everything we can to get them out of their homes before the water might make it impossible to get out,” he said.

According to Ewen, the RM is also keeping a close eye on the community of Ste Agathe as they brace for a second crest of the Red River, which is expected sometime next week, as high waters on the Red often lead to high waters and concerns about flooding in that community.

But Ewen said high waters and states of emergency are nothing new for the residents of Ritchot.

“This is common,” Ewen said. “I have called three states of emergencies in the five years that I have been mayor.”

As of Wednesday, much of the Red River Valley remained under an overland flood warning, according to the Manitoba Hydrologic Forecast Centre, after sections of the area received more than 70 millimetres of precipitation during the weekend, leaving many fields saturated and ditches filled with water.

In the RM of Emerson-Franklin, near the U.S border, officials are also preparing for high waters and for the possibility of flooding, and several roads in the area are currently closed.

Dave Carlson, the Reeve of Emerson-Franklin, said that although they are bracing for the Red River to crest next week, the major concern right now is overland flooding.

“We have already seen some pretty severe overland flooding just from last week’s storm, and currently we have six roads that are closed,” Carlson said.

“It’s the typical procedure here in a high water event that those roads are closed as they act as access points for our dike system, so it’s something that is not uncommon when we see these high water events.”

Carlson added they are also keeping an eye on the community of Emerson which is located within the RM because the second crest of the Red River will likely come next week and could cause problems in that community.

But he said the area is protected against flood levels greater than those from the flood of 1997, so they are now hoping that water levels don’t go much higher than they did that year during what is commonly referred to as the Flood of the Century in Manitoba.

More rain could be coming, however, as Environment Canada is now forecasting another Colorado low to hit Manitoba early Friday morning, which could add to the flooding concerns in the RM.

On Tuesday, the province also issued a flood warning for the Assiniboine River in southwestern Manitoba, with that warning stretching from St. Lazare to Griswold, west of Brandon.

The province is also reminding residents to stay off waterways including creeks, streams, rivers and the floodway, as they said high flows, debris, and cold temperatures currently present a significant safety risk.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.


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