TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Matthew Ditchfield works alongside other volunteers to build a sandbag dike around the home of Dave Barnes on Rosser Avenue East on Friday ahead of the Assiniboine River’s crest.
It’s a time of uncertainty for residents living near the Assiniboine River, as the city scrambles to handle the rapidly rising water.
Volunteers take a moment to relax while waiting for more sandbags during work to build a sandbag dike around the home of Dave Barnes on Rosser Avenue East on Friday ahead of the Assiniboine River’s crest. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Dave Barnes looks over the sandbag dike surrounding his home on Rosser Avenue East. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Seven-year-old Danika Liebaert and her father Kevin relax on a sandbag dike with other volunteers while waiting for more sandbags. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
A sandbag is tossed through the air on Friday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
"We are concerned, we’re hoping we don’t have to evacuate, because we have six children that we’d have to stick in a hotel," said Deanna Peters, who lives on Stickney Avenue. "We’re hoping and crossing our fingers that they get it figured out."
The city does not anticipate ordering any evacuations, however, emergency social services staff are working on a pre-evacuation notice for areas north and south of the river. These notices were to be delivered Friday and today.
"We’re looking at being 100 per cent effective in our ability to keep the dry areas dry, that’s what we continue to work towards," said Brian Kayes, the city’s director of risk and emergency management.
"Having said that, we have the evacuation plans. We have people that are ready, understand their roles, we have the whole thing all laid out, so we can activate it very quickly."
Peters says she is constantly checking for the latest flood updates.
"I’m probably checking the Internet 20 times a day," she said. "It’s a little stressful … I’m hoping we’re far enough away to be safe."
Alan Nickel lives on McDonald Avenue, not too far from the flooded Wheat City Golf Course. Nickel’s backyard backs onto the Assiniboine River, and over the past few days has seen the water rise significantly.
"This is only the second time in my lifetime I’ve seen it this high," Nickel said.
By Friday afternoon, river water had crept up across roughly 120 feet of land.
Fortunately, Nickel’s home is not threatened, as it is up higher on the hill.
"I feel a lot worse for other people that actually have it coming into their houses and stuff, that’s a different story," he said.
Meanwhile, some 65 volunteer sandbaggers rallied together to protect a home on Rosser Avenue East.
The property, owned by Dave Barnes, was flooded in 2011 as well.
"It’s a bit of a freaky déjà vu," Barnes said, as he took a quick break from tossing sandbags. "I never thought I would repeat it."
Barnes has plans to approach city hall with engineering plans to build a new home, so flooding can be avoided in the future.
"It’s time for a new home on engineered pilings," he said. "It’s time."
Barnes was grateful for all of the people who volunteered their time to help him out.
"This is a big event and once again it’s catching us really by surprise," he said. "We weren’t expecting anything like this, and it’s got to have the city scrambling in 100 directions … oh my, I can’t even imagine the stress on the officials of our town.
"But you know, when push comes to shove, the Brandonite shows up."
Greg Brown, the city’s volunteer co-ordinator, called the community support outstanding.
"The business community, the local people, everyone has stepped up to help out this homeowner," Brown said. "The wall (of sandbags) is built to the proper height … in the proper way. It has a much better chance of surviving the flood."
Later in the day on Friday, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst gave a "huge shoutout" to the volunteers at a city press conference.
"It’s incredible how quickly those walls went up," she said. "Thank goodness you were there for us."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 5, 2014