Red River Flood Watch – Update, April 7 – Winnipeg, Manitoba and area, Fargo, North Dakota

Red River Flood Watch – April 7: Winnipeg, Manitoba Update – Fargo, ND

Red River Flood Watch – Update, April 7 – Winnipeg, Manitoba and area, Fargo, North Dakota

You’ll notice at the Canada News Commentary blog that I’ve been following closely the Red River flood situation in both Manitoba and North Dakota. This news watch on the flooding has also been twinned here at the MissionLog blog at WordPress.com

My goal is to gather the latest news from the most reliable news sources on the scene in the areas and present an accurate synopsis both to residents of the affected areas and concerned people across the country  worried about families or wondering how best to help – with an emphasis on volunteerism. The latest flood updates and links to news articles are just below. [sources- cbc.ca; WinnipegFreePress.com; Government of Manitoba; City of Winnipeg winnipeg.ca]

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I work with Project417, a small grassroots non-profit in Toronto. Normally, we work out on the streets with the inner city homeless population. For the past several years, Project417 has also been directly involved in Disaster Recovery work, specifically organizing volunteers to go and help those rendered homeless by disasters. Homelessness can befall anyone by environmental disaster as well as other circumstances, and we have experience in helping our neighbors across North America – as they are usually no more than a couple of days drive.

Relief efforts Project417 has  responded to include:  Hurricane Ivan, Grenada, fundraising for YWAM – Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, first response mobile canteens, emergency distribution center, crisis counselling, Lower 9th ward home rebuilding – Hurricane Ike, Houston Galveston County, first response mobile canteens, emergency distribution center, San Leon home rebuilding – City of Toronto, 2008 propane explosion, 2008 Secord Avenue Hydro vault explosion, 2009 East and West end apartment explosions, food and refreshment services at community evacuation centres – City of Vaughan and Region of Durham, emergency exercises – Thunder Bay, Ontario, Trillium provincial emergency exercise. For many of these we partner with the central region Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services, while for Hurricane Katrina and Ike, Project417 has directly organized the home rebuilding efforts with hundreds of volunteers.

Emerson area road flooded - cbc.ca photo

Emerson area road flooded - cbc.ca photo

Ice Jams UnpredictableManitoba

In the Winnipeg area and elsewhere in Manitoba, the greatest risk reported right now from the rising levels on the Red River are from the widespread ice jams along many stretches of the river, combined with still extensive ice pans still covering much of the river. Winnipeg officials are confident that the recent relatively good weather conditions are reducing the risk of serious flooding. The good weather also assisted in making the job of hundreds of area volunteers who turned out over the weekend in increasing the sandbagging levels within Winnipeg city limits and in communities north such as St. Andrews and Selkirk, as well as south in Emerson. ( Ice jam raises river in Selkirk, threatens homes, April 7)

In addition, the province is making use of its Amphibex ice breakers on the ice pans and ice jams in several trouble spots on the river. The city’s Floodway, built to divert rising waters around the city during floods, can not normally be opened until ice jams and pans have melted or cleared, as letting in the ice could cause structural damage withing the Floodway. Officials are reported to have decided to open the floodway this week however and are taking steps to clear the jams.

The unpredictability of the ice jams makes it difficult to asses the impact of the cresting waters. Currently waters are expected to crest at just over 6 metres withing flood wall and dike protection, with sandbagging raising levels to about seven and a half metres for safety.

Similarly, on the border of Manitoba, Emerson is going to be the first facing this week the rising waters heading up from North Dakota. The CPR rail line is already closed by flooding in the area, but Emerson officials are similarly confident the town is prepared to meet the flood and don’t expect levels to reach catastrophic levels seen in the past. However they expect Highway 75 to be flooded, the main highway between Manitoba and the U.S. with expected lengthy delays for truckers and travellers.

Winnipeg area residents wishing to volunteer can call from the local calling area Winnipeg’s 311 information service, or email 311@winnipeg.ca with their name, telephone number and times of availability. You can also visit the area’s EmergWeb site at http://winnipeg.ca/emergweb

The Salvation Army and Red Cross in Manitoba has been out providing relief to volunteers and residents. Project417 volunteers remain on call.

Fargo, North Dakota may face second wave of floodwaters.

The U.S. Weather Service has issued new warnings to North Dakota residents that Fargo could face a second surge of floodwaters later this month and officials are watching reports closely. Just last week, Fargo and area residents escaped the worst as the Red River flood crest was lower than expected and the majority of dikes and sandbagging efforst held. More than 1,000 National Guard are still in the area to help if conditions should worsen again – as well as the combined forces of Salvation Army Emergency and Disaster Services and the Red Cross.

I’ll post more updates here as soon as I can and at Canayjun’s Canada News blog. If there are any volunteer efforts being organized from Toronto, I’ll also post them here and at the Project417 website. Post a comment here if you have any volunteer information or breaking news.

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Flood Watch: Red River -Update April 2-09 – Winnipeg Calls for more sandbag volunteers

Red River Flood Watch 2009 – Update: Thursday, April 2

sandbagsWinnipeg calls for more sandbag volunteers Hundreds of Manitoba homes at risk from Red River ice jams

Winnipeg needs help – more volunteers needed for sandbagging in neighborhoods at increased risk of flooding

Officials in Winnipeg, Manitoba are escalating flood preparedness activities due to spreading ice jams in several key locations in the city including near the University of Manitoba in Fort Richmond and in communities just to the north – West St. Paul and St. Andrews.

The 48 km long floodway channel that diverts water around the city can’t be opened until large ice pans and floes clear. If the ice were to enter the channel, it would increase the risk of ice jams at several bridges within the city limits.
The Red River has already crested to the south of Manitoba in North Dakota, with evacuations near Fargo being ended. However, the cold weather in Manitoba has resulted in exceedingly dense ice conditions with many jams accumulating at major bends and low bridges along the extensive Red River valley system. Although the river is not expected to crest in the Winnipeg area until after April 6th early next week – the existence of the ice jams makes it difficult to predict the outcome of a sudden thaw. Even if the river crests below high water marks, floodwalls and dikes, a sudden thaw runoff meeting ice jams could cause serious localized flooding.

Lockport Bridge Ice jam

Lockport Bridge Ice jam

The local Salvation Army is on site at several sandbagging operations with refreshments, hot drinks and meals for emergency workers and volunteers. Local volunteers looking where to volunteer in the Winnipeg area should call the city’s informations service by dialling 311, or by visiting the online EmergWeb service or Manitoba provincial EMO (Emergency Measures Organization).

Here in Toronto,
Project417 is on call with the Salvation Army’s Emergency and Disaster Services (EDS) operation if local Manitoba resources are overwhelmed by any increase in need for volunteers. If requested by Manitoba agencies, we would join the Salvation Army and deliver mobile canteens and crisis response units to the people in need. Visit Project417.com for updates on upcoming volunteer opportunities.

In the past year, Project417 has responded twice to the Texas gulf coast near Galveston following Hurricane Ike, as well as helping out with EDS meal services at two recent Toronto area apartment explosions that resulted in the evacuation of over 700 residents. My experience in disaster relief goes back to a 6 month stretch helping in New Orleans after Katrina in 2005 and last fall I took part in the Ontario Provincial EMO exercise in Thunder Bay dubbed “Trillium” – which involved more than 1,500 front-line workers and volunteers responding to a mock disaster simulating conditions related to the eastern Ontario ice storm.

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Winnipeg flood officials increase estimate of homes at risk

Red River Flood Watch: April 1, 2009

Winnipeg, Manitoba – Fargo, North Dakota

In North Dakota, the risk of flooding from the cresting Red River is not over, but flood fears have eased with the levels at 11.5 meters being below the permanent floodwall level.

However in Manitoba, in the midst of a severe spring snowstorm, the risk of flooding has been escalated by local officials. According to news reports [cbc.ca] the number of homes in Winnipeg at risk of flooding from the rising Red River has been increased from 80 to 140 homes, with residents being urged to add at least a foot of sandbag to existing floodwalls.

Winnipeg flood officials increase estimate of homes at risk

The threat posed by the spreading ice jams is severe, with at least four locations in the city limits identified as possible ice jam locations. North of Winnipeg, the current snowstorm is hampering flood protection efforts as ice jams increase and the areas subject to flooding as a result have been expanded. Selkirk is still under a declared state of emergency in expectation of extensive flooding due to the ice jams.

The river is now expected to crest on Sunday, April 6th.

Other online flood watch resources –

Winnipeg EmergWeb –
Winnipeg crews continue working to respond to rising river levels and prepare for possible ice jams.

Manitoba EMO – Emergency Measures organization –  The Salvation Army is providing meals and refreshments to people working on the flood-fighting efforts north of Winnipeg and in Winnipeg.

Canada News – Spring storm hindering flood protection efforts north of Winnipeg

CBC Manitoba Flood Watch – ice cutting machine plunges through river ice north of Winnipeg

Project417 coordinators will meet tomorrow with Salvation Army EDS manager to determine volunteer deployment possibility. More updates soon…

Flood Update: N.Dakota alerts eased, while Manitoba ice jams spark emergency status

Red River Flood Update – March 31,2009 – North Dakota – Manitoba

Colder weather and falling snow have actuallly eased flood conditions in much of North Dakota, with many Fargo area neighborhoods lifting evacuation orders Tuesday afternoon, March 31, 2009.

Flooding in North Dakota

Flooding in North Dakota

However, the town of Selkirk, north-east of Winnipeg and at least one other town have declared emergency conditions due to increasing ice jams on the Red River. The ice jams themselves make it difficult to predict the possibility of flooding, but many neighborhoods are sandbagging, with some being told to evacuate by authorities.

The Winnipeg spillway – built in the 60’s to divert flood waters from the river, can not be opened to ease flood waters until the risk of ice jams abates. Any sheet ice, or jams entering the spillway risks more ice jams at bridge crossings and higher flood waters within Winnipeg itself.

Volunteer Update –

The CBC published today that there are increasing reports of volunteer and emergency personnel exhaustion in towns north of Winnipeg where the ice jams are widespread. There were appeals for food to fuel the small army of residents, volunteers and front-line workers primarily involved in sandbagging around properties threatened by the ice and rising waters.

Project417 has organized several volunteer teams in the past few years to respond to disaster scenes such as Hurricanes Katrina  in 2005, Ike last fall of 2008, and most recently two large evacuations in Toronto following apartment building explosions. Additionally,  as a community development coordinator  with Project417, I took part in Ontario’s Trillium emergency exercise last November in Thunder bay, along with more than 1,500 other emergency response personnel.

For first response situations, Project417 partners exclusively with the Salvation Army Emergency and Disaster Services (EDS), headquartered in Toronto. The process in preparing to respond involves staying updated on breaking news, and reporting availability to our EDS contact. As in the current crisis in Manitoba – local and then provincial resources are called in and assigned – with local emergency response personnel, often local fire departments, designated as local command and control centres and relay requests to the media for volunteers and materials that can be quickly deployed from surrounding areas. In addition, The Manitoba Emergency Management organization (EMO) is mobilized in declared states of emergency, and have in this case also requested the federal government to deploy and make ready on stand-by Canadian Armed Forces personnel.

If the local emergency or disaster situation escalates – as may be the case this week north of Winnipeg – those organizations may begin requesting assistance from neighbouring cities and provinces across Canada. Project417 has forwarded the CBC news reports of volunteers facing exhaustion to our EDS contact to ascertain whether mobilization should be escalated. Our role normally is helping man the mobile canteens, capable of serving hot meals, nutritious snacks, coffee, hot chocolate, juices, soft drinks and water – to as many as 1,500 or more per day per canteen. So right now we are ready and just waiting for the call. It would take at least 1 1/2 – 2 days to drive the vehicles out depending on road conditions. More updates will be posted here soon and  at project417.com.

North Dakota and Minnesota Red River - photo nasa.gov

North Dakota and Minnesota Red River - photo nasa.gov

More updates and sources –

Fargo Inforum – Evacuation orders lifted in some neighborhoods

Selkirk declares state of emergency

Manitoba communities plead for volunteers and food

CBC Manitoba Flood Watch 2009

Winnipeg Free Press Flood Watch

Winnipeg Free Press Breaking News

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