Sunday November 23, 2014


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Floods force evacuations, road closures and other challenges

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The ongoing floods in southeast Saskatchewan have displaced hundreds of people from their homes, closed numerous stretches of highways, and forced many municipalities to call a state of emergency, according to information supplied at a conference call on Monday morning.

Representatives from several different ministries and two Crown corporations offered updates during the conference call.

Duane McKay, the commissioner of emergency management and fire safety for the Ministry of Government Relations, said 36 municipalities in the province have declared a state of emergency.

Among the municipalities are the towns of Carnduff and Redvers; the villages of Gainsborough, Carievale and Alida; and the rural municipalities of Argyle, Reciprocity, Mount Pleasant 0and Storthoaks. Gainsborough is currently the subject of a mandatory evacuation order, which has left the village a virtual ghost town.

Other communities might also have to declare emergencies, he said.

"Today has been quite active already, with respect to responding to assist municipalities," said McKay. "We've begun to see the significant impact in the breadth and the area that's been covered off by this rain event in the last 24 hours, and we are seeing a lot of activity at the municipal level in support and recovery."

Some areas have reported more than 200 millimetres, or eight inches, of rain, he said. Precipitation is expected to continue into Monday night and Tuesday morning. Another 15 millimetres is forecasted, although that number could increase if thunderstorms occur.

Patrick Boyle with the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency (WSA) said the rainfall amounts for Redvers are unprecedented for that community.

"We haven't seen that kind of rainfall, or that amount of moisture before," said Boyle. "On some of the creeks, it is really the biggest flow we have seen."

The ground in many areas was already saturated, which added to the problems.

Water has flowed over the Redvers Dam, Boyle said. The dam is a small structure north of Redvers owned by the RM of Antler.

"It doesn't hold a lot of water, compared to the other structures in the province," said Boyle. "The reports coming this morning  … are that the dam level there is dropping. It's still flowing over the top of the dam … and that's where the concern comes in, when you get over topping of any structure, you can weaken it."

But there isn't much water flowing over the dam.

Water releases have started from Alameda Dam. Currently they are at about three cubic metres per second (m3/s); Boyle said they could reach as high as 20 to 40 m3/s.

Doug Wakabayashi from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways said 15 sections of highways are closed in the province. Most of them are in the east. One of the latest is Highway 18 from the junction with Highway 9 to the Manitoba border.

A small, five-kilometre stretch of Highway 18 between Gainsborough and the U.S. border was already shut down. But now the closures have extended to the junction with Highway 9.

Carnduff RCMP said on Monday that there has been heavy flooding at Highway 18 at the Antler River Bridge near Carievale. The water has risen significantly, is flowing over the road and the bridge is impassable.

According to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways, these highways in the southeast corner were also closed:

*Highway 13 from Carlyle to the Manitoba border;

*Highway 318 from Carnduff to the junction with Highway 361;

*Highway 361 from the junction with Highway 318 to the Manitoba border;

*Highway 8 from the junction with Highway 18 to the junction with Highway 361;

*Highway 48 from the junction with Highway 8 to the Manitoba border.

The highway closures have essentially cut off Redvers and Carievale.

"We have deployed engineers to the far southeast part of the province," said Wakabayashi. "They'll be doing some preliminary work to develop a repair plan.

"It is really too early at this point to comment on how long it will take to repair work. We're going to need the water to recede quite a bit before we can even begin to assess the damage in a lot of cases."

Damage could range from minor shoulder erosion to major culvert or bridge failures, he said.

Deanna Wysockey from the Ministry of Social Services, noted that more than 300 people have been evacuated due to flooding.

The majority came from Gainsborough, where about 250 people followed last night's mandatory evacuation order, and fled their homes.

"Some of them were camping in the driveways and yards of Carnduff residents, and some of the Gainsborough people were staying in a house with Carnduff residents," she said.

None of them required assistance from Social Services, she said.  

Four Gainsborough residents opted to stay in their homes. Social Services knows who they are and where they live, in case they encounter problems

Most of the other evacuated residents are from apartment buildings in Yorkton, Wysockey said.
Other highlights from the conference call were:

*The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health reports that all health services continue to be provided in the flooded areas, with the exception of a facility in Gainsborough that has 16 residents. Three residents are staying with family members; the remaining 13 have been moved to other health facilities in the region. At other facilities, the damage includes flooded crawlspaces and leaky roofs.

*The Provincial Disaster Assistance Program has been in contact with about 20 communities who are seeking varying levels of assistance, and 50 individuals inquiring about programs for their losses.

*SaskPower said about 200 customers are still without power in the southeast. Crews are working to restore power.

*SaskEnergy reports they have received over 200 customer calls regarding flooding. They have shut off service to 150 residences in flood-affected areas, but that doesn't include mass shutoffs in flooded areas. The number of residences without power could be over 1,000.  



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