Water from the Qu’Appelle River flows over Highway 41 in St. Lazare Tuesday as flood levels increase in the area.
Residents of St. Lazare are awash with déjà vu as Qu’Appelle River levels surpass those in 2011.
Within the town itself, three homes were completely surrounded by water on Tuesday, but sandbagging work that began in earnest a few days ago is so far keeping the water from entering dozens of threatened homes.
And at this point, no one has been evacuated.
Mayor Martin Dupont said there are additional properties in the Qu’Appelle and Assiniboine River valleys that see the water inching closer to homes within the Rural Municipality of Ellice.
"The levels are definitely higher than they were in 2011," he said.
Connie Chartier-Tanguay lives in the town of St. Lazare, while her mother lives just on the outskirts. Her mother’s property has been hit even harder than it was in 2011.
The family has been measuring water levels around the home according to the height of their lawn ornaments and documenting the flooding day by day with photos and video.
"Yesterday, the water level was about a foot high, at the nose of the fawn," Chartier-Tanguay said of the deer ornament on the lawn. "Today the water is above the fawn’s eyes, about an inch and a half higher."
Chartier-Tanguay said that she and her brothers are working around the clock squeegeeing their mother’s basement to try to avoid having the same kind of water damage they saw in 2011.
They squeegee constantly, taking 15-minute breaks to rest. But by the time those 15 minutes are over, water has already seeped through the basement walls again.
"We are a little sleep-deprived," she said. "In 2011, we lost everything that was in the basement, so we haven’t really replaced much except for the hot water tank, furnace and sump-pump that was down there. We brought the couch, bed and treadmill upstairs."
In 2011, Chartier-Tanguay said her mother’s property suffered more than $50,000 worth of damages. Since then, the government has reimbursed her with one cheque for $623 for flood relief.
"Even though they told us they were going to take care of us, we don’t believe them," she said. "We haven’t heard anything (from the government). If we didn’t have friends in Round Lake, Saskatchewan, we wouldn’t know what’s going on."
Chartier-Tanguay said their neighbours in Saskatchewan have been notifying them of when to prepare for surges of water. They’ve been working to prevent flooding since June 30 when a Hydro pole broke down in the area, leaving them without power for roughly 24 hours.
That was the catalyst for the string of events that have led to worse flooding in the area than in 2011, she said.
Nearby in the river valley, Owen Jessop completed a last-minute two-foot-high dike around his home — a home built just last year to replace another destroyed by the 2011 flooding.
He thought he was ready for anything when it was finished in July 2012 because he built it eight feet higher than his old home and to provincial specs to prevent such threats.
But as river water inched toward him yesterday, that confidence seemed to wash away.
"We’re at the mercy of the Lord," he said. "I never thought it would reach up on top here ... none of us saw this coming."
Since the RM of St. Lazare is located near two rivers, the Qu’Appelle River and the Assiniboine River, they’ve felt double the effects of flooding, local insurance broker Bev McLennan said.
"We have double the water and it’s insane, it really is," she said. "But it looks like this in pretty much all of the south of Manitoba. You could understand this in the spring of the year, but for heaven’s sake, this is July."
McLennan said her insurance firm, Andrew Agencies, has already received about a dozen flood-related complaints, but because flooding isn’t covered under private home insurance, they’ve begun sending out letters of denial.
"A lot of the same people phoning in already know we can’t help and are going through the motions from 2011," McLennan said.
Residents must have a letter of denial from a private insurance agency before they can apply for government relief from an EMO office.
"It’s going to be a very costly cleanup, not just financially but on some of these older people that have been through this, having to deal with it again," she said.
"It’s really stressful because there’s absolutely nothing worse than telling someone in their hour of need that we can’t help them."
St. Lazare is located about 160 kilometres northwest of Brandon.
The Qu’Appelle River is a tributary to the Assiniboine River.
» Brandon Sun, Winnipeg Free Press
Qu’Appelle River continues to rise
The Qu’Appelle River at St. Lazare is expected to crest on Monday — but in the meantime, it’s going to get higher.
The river is a tributary to the Assiniboine River and the two meet in the village approximately 160 kilometres northwest of Brandon.
At its peak, the Qu’Appelle will flow at 25,000 to 28,500 cubic feet per second (cfs).
The province said the river’s gauge on the provincial border with Saskatchewan was lost because waters were well beyond its range.
"The gauge is a good indicator for Manitoba as to peak flow coming in at St. Lazare, that’s the importance of the gauge to us," Manitoba flood forecaster Steve Topping said during yesterday’s provincial flood briefing. "It’s just been overwhelmed."
Provincial flood officials say the flooded Qu’Appelle is expected to contribute to the second Assiniboine River crest in Brandon at 31,000 to 32,000 cfs, still slated for July 17.
The Assiniboine River at Brandon has dropped to 31,680 cfs with a water level of 1,182.3 feet above sea level. The permanent dikes built following the 2011 flood are designed to protect for the current forecasted levels, the province said.
The Souris River crested Monday at Melita and Souris, but both continue to experience high flows. It remains near crest at Wawanesa with a flow of 16,400 cfs and a water level of 1,155.3 feet.
Near Deloraine, Whitewater Lake remains at an historic high of 1,633.5 feet.
» Brandon Sun
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 9, 2014