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Countdown to Red’s Crest: Ritchot Ramps Up Flood Fight

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Flood8 Trina Blight Crop2
Ritchot residents witness the extent of flooding near their home along Highway 200. Trina Blight

As of Monday, May 2, a total of 130 evacuation notices had been issued to residents by the RM of Ritchot, and that number climbs daily as the river continues its steady rise. With the crest of the Red River expected to be about a week away, the municipality’s flood-fighting efforts have kicked into high gear.

“I think about one-third of them have evacuated,” says Ritchot mayor Chris Ewen, who emphasizes that the evacuation of households in high water areas is not mandatory. “It’s up to them to make the decision if they’d like to leave or not.”

Should residents choose to stay in their homes, the RM provides a checklist of items that they should stock up on should their road or driveway become impassable—items such as fuel, food, and potable water.

The municipality has also stockpiled 300,000 sandbags for property owners to use, along with a sand station located at the St. Adolphe Arena. Already many sandbag dikes have been erected across driveways and around homes in preparation for what is yet to come.

As in past years, the municipality and province initially provide subsidized hotel stays for those who choose to relocate until the floodwaters recede. During the first 72 hours after a household evacuates, they are put up at hotels around Winnipeg at the municipality’s expense. They are also asked to save their meal receipts in anticipation of disaster financial assistance programs which may be announced at a later date.

After 72 hours, displaced residents are transitioned to Provincial Emergency Social Services for continued aid.

Evacuations Underway

Christa Ferreira and her husband Jones have lived along the banks of the Red River since 2001. Once they received their evacuation notice, the Ferreiras chose to evacuate their property, which is situated along the stretch of highway between St. Adolphe and A Maze in Corn.

This is not their first rodeo. The couple was similarly displaced in 2009, and then again in 2011.

“The house is two feet higher than the 1997 flood level,” Ferreira says, “but the driveway gets flooded, making it dangerous. My husband Jones works in the city, and even though I mostly work from home it is not recommended to stay at home when the house is surrounded with water.”

Ferreira says that they have been really impressed by the quick action and support of the RM staff. However, this still doesn’t fully mitigate the angst they feel over having to abandon their property for an unknown length of time.

“My husband wanted to stay until the last minute because we just started our seedlings for the summer and they may not survive if we cannot attend to them for too long,” says Ferreira.

They’d also hoped for more snow to melt before leaving, which would have allowed them to move some outdoor equipment to higher ground. Alas, they decided to leave knowing that delaying even one more night might mean having to drive through two feet of water, as it did when they delayed their evacuation back in 2009.

Angie Masse is the co-owner of A Maze in Corn, located four kilometres north of St. Adolphe along Highway 200. At the time of this writing, the couple was working around the clock to move everything that was portable to higher ground.

“We will officially need to be evacuated as soon the bridge goes under, as that is our last way out,” Masse says. “Unfortunately, we have lots to do and the race is on.”

Masse says that the farm equipment they rely on for their business would have been on high enough ground had the original predictions been accurate. Those predictions, which anticipated a flood of similar proportions to 2011, came before the recent heavy precipitation throughout the month of April.

Now the predictions have now been upgraded to 2009 levels—or higher.

“They are saying that we will most likely be evacuated for three to four weeks,” says Masse. “[I’m] not sure where we are going at this point, but all of our animals have been moved out and now it is just us and the remaining items in question.”

As for Ferreira, she’s settling into a new routine in their small hotel room and creating a makeshift office with her laptop on a small corner table. Her online business of product imports won’t run at full capacity for a while, as long as there’s no address to which her products can be shipped.

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