Winnipeg raises flood gates before Red River crest

Thursday, April 9th 2009, 11:42 am
By: News 9

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) -- Floodway gates were raised in Winnipeg on Wednesday as the western Canadian city braced for the swollen Red River to crest.
   Authorities predicted water levels could rise to just over 19 feet Thursday in the first of several surges expected at Winnipeg during the next few weeks. The gates divert water into the Red River Floodway, a huge ditch that carries water around the city.
   "The next 48 hours will be a critical time period as the ice begins to melt," said Steve Aston, emergency measures minister for Manitoba province. He said the floodway was expected to hold the river level at 18.5 feet.
   A spokesman for the Manitoba Water Stewardship, Steve Topping, said officials were watching ice on the river, which is not moving as it should be. He said the increased risk of ice jams could cause localized flooding.
   Although the north-flowing Red River has not risen in the province to the crest of up to 43 feet seen in Fargo, N.D., over the past few weeks, a lot of farmland in southern Manitoba has been inundated.
   One of the hardest-hit areas is near the small community of St. Jean Baptiste.
   "Well, we're kind of used to flooding around this area," farmer Eric Sabourin said with a chuckle, keeping his humor despite having two-thirds of his fields turned into a lake.
   He said flooding hadn't been as bad as he first feared and his home was safe.
   Other communities appeared ready for the river's crest, with sandbagging nearly complete and temporary dikes put up around vulnerable areas.
   Most residents of the flood-prone Roseau River First Nation near the U.S. border stayed at home, encircled by a dike.