SOURIS — It was one year ago when Bill and Sheila Kirkup’s century-old home was surrounded by 12-foot super sandbag dikes, threatened by the ever-rising Souris River.
The elegant landscaping on the Kirkups’ sloping lawn was swallowed up by the river, and the couple had to be evacuated from their home of 50 years.
“It was just a year from hell,” Bill Kirkup said. “The biggest fear of it all was the fear of the unknown. You knew you were going to get it, you didn’t know how much and you didn’t know when … We knew we were in trouble.”
The Kirkups’ basement flooded, but all in all, the home managed to escape relatively unscathed. The couple was evacuated from their home for a total of six weeks.
“We’re feeling very thankful that we came out of it the way we did, but I wish it hadn’t happened either,” Sheila Kirkup said.
Standing in their back yard, the couple reflected on just how high the water came.
“It’s hard to believe,” Sheila said. “Even when we look out now, it’s hard for us to believe that the water was right up to the underside of the bridge.”
The flood of 2011 lasted for months, creating a stressful and uncertain time for the people of Souris.
“It just went on and on and on, and you just wondered if there was ever going to be an end,” Bill said. “We can’t believe that a year ago … it was a sea.”
The Kirkups now have a lot of work to do in their yard, starting on the higher level. Building up the land and replanting grass is first on the list. The lower level of their property is still covered with silt.
Souris Mayor Darryl Jackson reflected on how the community pulled together in a time of crisis.
“It shows the level of volunteerism that you can count on when there is an emergency taking place,” Jackson said. “We had great support … when we needed lots of volunteers from out of town, people came to help.”
Remembering the water levels of last year, Jackson said: “you almost had to see it to believe it.”
“It certainly just feels like your imagination is playing tricks on you,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Wawanesa, the village’s mayor is also commending the work of the countless volunteers last year.
“It was a pretty remarkable time,” Mayor Bruce Gullett said. “The amount of co-operation that you get from pretty much everybody in the village, and the volunteers that come forward to do more than they were asked to do, without hesitation.”
The village is still working on cleanup efforts after being hit hard by the flood.
“We’re still working at getting our park back in order,” Gullet said. “It was under water for three months or so. We had a lot of silt that we had to clean out of there.”
The village lost quite a bit of riverbank, and continues work on the dam.
“The lasting effect is our steel bridge, the one exit to the southwest, is still out of service, I guess maybe forever,” Gullett said.
Wawanesa now has a two-kilometre permanent dike in place to protect the village.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 17, 2012