Provincial flood-fighting officials are keeping a careful eye on water flows through a deliberate cut that was made overnight near Waywayseecappo.
An excavator cut a notch in a section of former rail bed that was holding back some 30 metres of water from a tributary of Birdtail Creek. As the embankment crumbled, there were fears that a flash flood could rush down a gully, threatening roads, homes and other infrastructure downstream.
Now, however, there is cautious optimmism as the cut allows 100–150 cubic feet per second of water to flow through, drawing down the staggering amount of water, and reducing some pressure on the berm, which was beginning to collapse.
As well, the frozen culvert at the base of the embankment, which was the original blockage causing the water back-up, appears to be thawing, and slow water flows are starting to come through there.
Workers are also pumping water out and over the embankment.
The controlled breach and pumping, combined with the slow flows from the culvert, are expected to reduce the risk of embankment failure and a surge of water flowing downstream. However, risk of embankment failure is still high as only the top five feet of water will be removed from behind the embankment.
Birtle Mayor Dwight Stewart said anything to relieve pressure off the embankment is good for them. Stewart added they are currently seeking volunteers to help man security check points and are seeking food donations. Those interested in lending a hand, can contact Birtle's municipal office at 1-204-842-5390.