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Flooding woes expected to dog Manitoba long after rivers crest

Melanie Schultz has taken a few days off work to build a dike to protect her home from the rising Red River in Winnipeg's north side on April 14, 2011. About 350 students volunteered in Winnipeg's north end to get sandbagging done in vulnerable areas.


Manitoba will be wrestling with the legacy of this year's flood long after its rivers crest and the water drenching much of the province recedes, Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said Tuesday.

Water levels are at least as high as they were in 2009 - the second-worst flood season in the last 150 years, Mr. Ashton said. That flood caused $70-million in damage and this year is expected to be just as costly.

Almost 800 people in the province have been forced from their homes as a precaution, the majority from Peguis First Nation north of Winnipeg. Just over 30 municipalities have declared states of emergency.

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Almost 80 provincial roads are affected by flooding and 500 municipal roads are closed.

The crest of this year's flood on the Red River and Assiniboine River is still days away. But Mr. Ashton said water levels will continue to cause problems well into May.

That's partly because he said Manitoba's lakes will be overflowing for weeks to come.

"You are going to see some significant impacts on lake levels and lake combined with ice scenarios," Mr. Ashton said. "We will clearly be looking at impacts from this flood season well into May and, with the elevated levels of water in our lakes, there will be after-effects for some time to come."

Cottage owners and residents will have to remain vigilant and keep an eye on wind, which has the potential to whip up the swollen lakes, he said.

"We're aware that with these levels, you will see impacts on beaches," Mr. Ashton said. "Dare I say, there may be areas where normally there is a beach, but with these high water levels, you won't see that."

Manitoba's washed-out roads and bridges may also take some time to repair, he added, especially since this year's flood is so widespread. Unlike previous years, the high level of precipitation means flooding is not just confined to the Red River Valley.

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"This is a big footprint," Mr. Ashton said.

The Red River is expected to crest at the Manitoba-U.S. border this weekend or early next week. The Assiniboine River is also expected to crest at the end of the month or beginning of May.

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