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Downstream of Brandon, communities brace for crest

East of Brandon, communities are bracing for the floodwater surge to arrive, Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said today.

Water levels around one foot higher than 2011 are expected on the Assiniboine River downstream of Portage la Prairie. Land owners on the lower Assiniboine River are advised to immediately make necessary preparations for these high flows, the province said as it tries to prepare for the worst.

"We, as Manitobans, are working 24/7 to deal with whatever is coming," Ashton said during a teleconference.

Provincial and municipal workers as well as volunteers dealing with the state of emergency are getting help from Alberta flood officials on the ground here as well as 400 Canadian Forces reservists helping out along the Assiniboine River dikes close to the Hoop and Holler bend, Ashton said.

The province said it hasn’t decided yet if it will dig a trench though Highway 331 to conduct a controlled breach of the Assiniboine River.

Ashton said Sunday they won’t unless there’s inclement weather or problems on the Portage Diversion.

Crews have removed the pavement from the provincial road and are ready to make the cut if the province needs to, he said.

That beats the "worst-case scenario" of having uncontrolled flooding, Ashton said.

Reservists from CFB Shilo, municipal workers and volunteers are making up to one million sandbags to save about 200 homes along the Assiniboine River and 150 properties south of the Hoop and Holler Bend, a twist in Highway 331 southeast of Portage la Prairie.

The same spot was intentionally breached during the height of the massive 2011 flood to contain the swollen river.

If the province breaches the dike again, water will flow into lush farm fields planted weeks ago, before there was any hint of what was coming.

Right now, 771 Manitobans have been forced from their homes because of flooding said Ashton.

"It's very stressful time for a lot of people preparing for the surge of water," he said Sunday.

As of this morning, 54 municipalities and communities had declared a state of local emergency. New declarations include ones from the rural municipalities of Cartier, Headingley, Lakeview and St. François Xavier.

The province is also working on the east dike of the Portage Diversion channel before its expected peak at noon Tuesday. Ashton said they may have to make an intentional cut in the west dike of the channel that wasn’t designed to handle 25,00 cubic feet per second of water.

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