TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Vince Moore and Chris Flannery help set up pumps to pump water off 2nd Street in the community of Reston on Wednesday. Their homes were high and dry so they volunteered to help those who weren't so fortunate.
It has been a hellish season for many Westman farmers, and those near the rain-battered community of Reston are close to seeing some crops destroyed, says a local farmer.
Water inundates the community of Reston, flooding homes on the west side of the community as seen from the air on Wednesday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
This graphic shows how three major rainstorms in four days have had a substantial impact on the Assiniboine River in Brandon. The river, which is measured automatically every hour at the First Street bridge, rose about two feet thanks to the downpours, although it is still at least a foot away from overflowing its banks. This chart shows when the rises happened, correlated with Environment Canada data about the timing and intensity of the rain. (GRANT HAMILTON / BRANDON SUN)
Larrie Elliott owns about 20 quarter sections of farmland about three kilometres southwest of Reston. He said some of his canola crops are in serious jeopardy after many parts of southwestern Manitoba were swallowed by torrents of rain water.
"It was a tough season to begin with, but this puts the icing on the cake," he said.
Many farmers in the RM of Pipestone and the RM of Albert are battling some of the worst flooding in memory.
"I’ve never seen this in my whole life, ever since I was a kid," he said about Tuesday’s flood.
"It just expanded from a little stream in the ditch to an eighth of a mile wide and two feet deep."
Elliott said his rain gauge had five inches of rain in it after the Tuesday evening storm — but that’s all the water it holds.
"We had 15 inches of water in 36 hours. You can’t have 15 inches of water and not have damage to our crops," he said.
Flooding was localized to the Reston area, but Elliott said many farmers have large operations with land spread across the RM of Pipestone.
He said the deluge will certainly take a serious bite out of profit, but may not be crippling for most.
"If you just had your land right at Reston, it’s pretty devastating. There’s too many acres missing to make much of a profit this year."
Farmers close to the Reston area are wishing for sun, warmth and wind over the coming weeks to undo the past week’s havoc, but Elliott said if there is any additional rain, it could be game over for this year’s yields.
"For canola at least," Elliott said.
"If we get any more rain on it, it could ruin it completely. It doesn’t like to have its feet wet and if we get nice hot weather, it could come back."
Residents not only dealt with the huge amount of water, but some say funnel clouds were spotted in the area, and hail the size of golf balls pelted homes and vehicles.
According to cabinet spokesperson Matthew Williamson, Premier Greg Selinger will tour Reston and other areas early next week and discuss the Municipal Sewer Backup Subsidy program — a program familiar to many in Brandon — which provides financial support to homeowners wanting to install a sump pump, pit or in-line backwater valve.
"We understand that in Pipestone there has been very little take-up of this program so far," Williamson said in an email, "so the premier has initiated discussions on ways we can reduce the financial burden on homeowners to protect themselves."
The premier will also discuss disaster financial assistance in place to cover infrastructure damages.
In Virden, the town is still tallying up the dozens of affected homes. Virden has shied away from declaring a state of emergency, but has already started the work to apply for funding from the government, while residents still reel from the storm.
"There are still a number of homes where the groundwater level is so high, the property itself will have water in it," Mayor Jeff McConnell said.
Residents of three homes have been recommended to evacuate, but it’s not clear if they heeded the call.
The area near the town’s Victoria Park remains a problem, one of three parts of the town hit hard by Tuesday’s torrential downpour.
McConnell said there is no need for more volunteers and is urging those who want to help to head south to Reston.
Operations for oil companies in the area have ground to a halt. Crews are unable to battle impassible roads and field grounds are too wet to move around on, according to Tim Howell, vice-president of operations for Tundra Oil and Gas.
Pump-jacks, wells and at least one battery facility have been partially submerged in the area, which could raise environmental concerns.
"If there’s any potential threat to the environment at all, we’ll just shut in and secure the operations," Howell said. "It’s an environmental issue, but also a safety issue as well."
He expects it could be about two weeks for the company’s five drilling rigs, 13 service rigs and five construction crews to start work again.
"At this time of year, we expect to be going full bore, but you can’t do much about Mother Nature," he said.
Tundra and other oil companies operating in the area have lent equipment and time to help with cleanup, while around 80 per cent of Tundra’s 145 workers have assisted in the Reston and Virden areas.
Souris weathered the storm with relatively little scathing, according to Mayor Darryl Jackson, with only some water on oversaturated land causing some wet basements.
"I’m thinking there are a significant number of homes with dampness in their basement," Jackson said.
"But we’re very fortunate compared to the other communities," he said.
According to the province, the crested Souris River rose almost three feet during this week’s storm. In Brandon, the Assiniboine River rose about two feet and continues to rise.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 28, 2013