Southern Manitoba braces as flood levels creep up in some areas ahead of forecast rains

Ron Deger peers out over what looks more like a lake with sandbars poking up from the surface than his normally dry 1,600-hectare farm in the rural municipality of Morris, Man.

The co-owner of Country Grove Farms is struggling to remain optimistic that this growing season won’t be a wash. 

In a typical year, Deger’s farm would’ve been seeded with wheat, oats, corn, soybean and canola by the third week of April.

“We’ve got more rain coming so we may be lucky if we’re seeding towards the end of May,” Deger said Tuesday. “The way it’s looking … that might be optimistic.”

The rural municipality of Morris is one of several Red River adjacent-communities that flooded between Winnipeg and the Canada-U.S. border in recent weeks after the province was hammered by three spring storm systems. 

So far 26 municipalities remain under local states of emergency due to the deluge, and the RM of Morris has issued mandatory evacuation orders for several residents in Riverside.

Flood waters and a partially submerged road around Rosenort, in the RM of Morris, on Tuesday. (Stephen Jaison Empson/CBC)

The south and southwest took on more rain again Monday, and Morris and other municipalities in the south are bracing for more precipitation in the coming days.

The Red River already reached its crest in Emerson at the border on Sunday, and though levels are very near a peak in Morris they aren’t there yet, said Ralph Groening, the reeve of the RM.

Silos, bins and other structures partially under floodwaters around Rosenort Tuesday. (Stephen Jaison Empson/CBC)

“The concern is the continuation of a very, very long 2022 flood season,” he said Tuesday.

Groening said the RM has the situation mostly under control and most residents who lost road access due to recent washouts evacuated.

About 100 residents had to leave 25 homes and relocate, he said. Businesses in Rosenort continue to operate, and the community retains road access from the west and east, Groening added.

Morris reeve Ralph Groening said the flood resulted in about 100 people being forced to evacuate their homes in the rural municipality. (Jaison Empson/CBC )

Groening said employees of the municipality have been working the last three weekends and it looks like they may be working again this weekend.

“So there’s that human toll on our workers and on us as community leaders,” he said.

“More water simply just adds to the stress of and difficulty of our residents to get back to what we all want, which is a return to a more normal life,” he said. “There’s been no let up.”

Some residents have decided against evacuating just yet. Groening said some have no other choice but to stay to look after their properties and farm animals, with several resorting to using boats to get to and from their sandbagged properties.

Leo Blaze, centre, boats with family to his property in the rural municipality of Morris on Tuesday to further raise the sandbags in advance of anticipated rains Thursday. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Leo Blaze’s seven-and-a-half-hectare property has a camper and one trailer with a sandbag barrier holding the water at bay for the most part for now, but he said levels came up about seven centimetres between Monday and Tuesday.

On Tuesday, he and family used a boat to access the property and a tractor to shuttle over sand for more bagging. Blaze said they were building the dike up another foot or two in anticipation of more rain.

“And we might have to do that again yet, but we’re just one day at a time … trying to salvage everything we can,” said Blaze, who has called the area home since 1998.

“It’s a lake.… You can get all upset but it’s not going to help nothing. Just do what you can, work at it, and if you take losses that’s what you’ve got to live with.”

WATCH | Morris residents brace for more rain:

Soggy RM of Morris braces for more rain

2 hours ago

Duration 2:10

CBC’s Alana Cole reports from the RM of Morris, where homeowners and producers are anxiously watching the forecast and hoping floodwaters will soon start to recede. 2:10

Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk estimates as of Monday that flooding could cost more than $10 million.

On Tuesday during question period at the Manitoba Legislature, Piwniuk said 425 people have been evacuated from 185 municipal households. A total of 2,000 have been evacuated due to flooding and road access concerns.

Hydrological forecasts are calling for another 20 to 40 millimetres of rain in southern and central Manitoba Thursday, with an overland flood watch issued throughout those areas, said Piwniuk.

“These heavy rains may occur over a short period on saturated soils,” he said.

He said water levels on the Red River are near crest at St. Jean Baptiste south of Morris. Meanwhile, levels in the Red River Valley will possibly peak Friday, said Piwniuk, between levels reached in 2011 and 2009 — both among the top five worst Manitoba flood events.

Flood coverage in southern Manitoba floods of 1826, 1852, 1950, 1979, 1997, 2009 and 2011. (Charlie Brockman/CBC News Graphics)

Dreger said it could be the first time since the flood of 1997 that he doesn’t get seeds in the ground before June. He’s hoping for a wave of hot weather and dry winds soon after the forecast rains this week. 

Looking out over his submerged field Tuesday, Dreger says the water is still spilling onto his land from the backed up river. 

“We still definitely haven’t crested,” he said. “You just prepare for it and make sure you’re ready to go 24/7 once the weather allows us into the fields.”

Dreger says depending on when the ground is dry enough to seed he may need to make some tough choices about what he can or cannot realistically plant during a truncated growing season. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

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