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City ready as river rises

Citizens and members of the media sneak a peek at the massive surf on First Street North Saturday morning.


Citizens and members of the media sneak a peek at the massive surf on First Street North Saturday morning.

City workers are filling in a low spot on the south-side dikes of the Assiniboine River, but they are confident they are ready for an expected crest in the water level today.

The river level at 8 a.m. this morning, as measured at First Street, was 1,181.8 feet above sea level. That's about two feet in the past day — about an inch an hour — and is expected to rise about another foot, said Brian Kayes, the city's emergency coordinator, speaking at a City Hall briefing this morning.

"This leaves us with about two and a half feet to the top of the dike and we are preparing for a level like we had in 2011," Kayes said, "which would leave us with a foot in a half."

Kayes said that crews have identified one area where there's a low spot in the dike, but it's a fairly small area that only needs to come up about six inches, and he said it was not considered a huge issue.

"We are comfortable with the work that's been done," he said, adding that it should be done within the next couple of hours.

"We do have stockpiles of clay and rock and have equipment staged on both sides of the river so we are bale to react quickly to any developing situation."

Kayes added that sandbagging in the city was done, and they didn't expect to have to call in the military for any additional help.

However, looky-loos along the river were becoming an issue for city police.

"We've been getting a few calls for service people swimming and  kayaking in the floodwater," said Sgt. Larry Yanick. "It's very dangerous, stay away from the barricaded areas … The current is very strong, the river is very dangerous. We certainly don't want to respond to any accidents."

"If you need to go for a walk, so somewhere else," he said.

Yanick also said that traffic was flowing smoothly on 18th Street around the river this morning. It has been re-opened to all four lanes of traffic, but may be closed again or reduced to one lane if the city needs to do additional work.

"It could become a construction zone at a moment's notice," Kayes said.

Veterans Way and Highway 110, which were closed last night for dike construction, should re-open today at noon, although they are reduced to one lane, and flag people will be on hand to direct traffic.

Meanwhile, with storms possible in the forecast, Kayes said that the city was ready with pumps to keep water flowing.

"We have 23 pumps in town," he said.

Evacuation notices were handed out to hundreds of people near the river yesterday, but no one in Brandon has been evacuated yet, although the mayor stressed that people should do some pre-planning just in case.

"No one has been evacuated. We have plans and people in place that can be activated at a moment's notice," said mayor Shair Decter Hirst. "I urge people, think about where you would stay … we don't have enough hotel rooms. We don't want to have to rely on congregate housing, which, frankly, is jut cots in the gym."

She suggested that people contact friends and family.

She also said that people elsewhere in the city who were enjoying the day — perhaps at the multicultural festival at Princess Park — should pay attention to the possible emergency.

But if they hear the siren, she said, they shouldn't assume that it was necessarily about the river, and they should still tune to local media as soon as possible to ensure it wasn't something else.

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