As of yesterday afternoon, the expected crest on the Assiniboine River finally came, and according to provincial officials, floodwaters should now be slowly receding, until the next, lesser crest, several days hence.
A river reading taken by the city yesterday indicated that Brandon saw water levels just shy of the 2011 record during the peak. Whatever the case, the sheer amount of water pulsing through the river is phenomenal.
From the start, this has been an unusual flood in southwest Manitoba. City and provincial officials have pointed out that this is the first time that a humongous rainstorm has caused this level of flooding in our river systems, where usually it’s the annual spring thaw that has previously caused the region’s water woes.
And the first crest was early — significantly earlier than first predicted, forcing sandbaggers, city crews, soldiers from CFB Shilo and provincial officials to work against the clock in order to prepare for the onslaught.
But the situation became more complicated when the power of Mother Nature was again on display over the weekend. A powerful thunderstorm system rolled through western Manitoba on Saturday night, complete with high winds, fierce rain, hail, and in at least one case a tornado, as confirmed near Hartney by Environment Canada.
Dozens of beautiful old trees were either topped or felled by what meteorologists are calling straight-line winds late Saturday night. The damage to a number of neighbourhoods in the south end of the city and the Brandon Cemetery was significant, as shown by many of the photographs being tweeted out and posted on Facebook by area residents and Brandon Sun staff.
Coupled with that was a restaurant fire on 10th Street across from city hall Saturday night that had fire crews on scene for hours.
Last week was a long and difficult one, topped off by a wild weekend. We have to give credit to city workers, police, firefighters and paramedics, and Manitoba Hydro crews who have worked hard to keep Brandonites safe and dry in the leadup to and during the flood.
That was complicated by people who decided to defy requests from the city and police to stay away from the river and swim and kayak in the floodwaters. But that was only a small minority.
Ordinary citizens stepped up to help sandbag a home on Rosser Avenue East owned by Dave Barnes. The area had been flooded out in 2011, and the sandbagging was necessary to protect the property.
Barnes himself said it well: “When push comes to shove, the Brandonite shows up.”
And so too, do our many politicians — municipal, provincial and federal — many of whom spent their days attempting to get information to people, and working with city and provincial officials to aid their community. Whatever criticism they may face from the public, those who were visible to the public were doing their jobs.
Brandon’s flood woes also earned a visit from Canada’s top politician, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who took a quick tour of the region by helicopter before allowing media access in a cramped room at city hall yesterday. He didn’t say much, but he did assure those members of the media and fellow politicians bumping elbows in the room that “all governments will work together” and that “there will be disaster assistance in this case, as there always is according to federal law.”
The irony may be that it takes a Manitoba flood that puts people’s livelihoods and homes at stake to draw a sitting prime minister, as this was his first visit back to Manitoba since the 2011 flood.
Nevertheless, his visit was a welcome one for a region that will dearly need federal support after floodwaters recede.