Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Flood, From My Vantage Point…

… which unfortunately happens to be front row seats to this once in a lifetime drama, ‘Bracing for the Breach’, starring Raging Assiniboine. Scratch the popcorn, we’re pitching sandbags!
What a switch from previous years when we were far removed from the flood zone! My colony, Elm River is just five miles east of the newly famed Hoop ‘n’ Holler -- the little bend that was put on the map this week. To set the scene, we have the raging Assiniboine two miles north of us, the waiting-for- the-big-spill Elm River, two miles south and the La Salle, thus far quietly rippling right through our colony.
There’s a CN railroad track between us and the Elm River, the area which will be most affected when the 331 Hwy will be breached. I‘ve heard the train rumbling past thousands of times, never looking at it as more than another aspect of our prairie landscape. Today, I have another perspective, as it may well be the blessed barrier that keeps the water from reaching our colony. Along with everybody else, we’re watching, hoping and praying, especially for the people who will be directly affected by this spill.
We have no idea what the La Salle River will do. And nobody seems to think that we’ll be in danger, since we’re at a higher elevation than Elie. For the last few days, many of our people have been out helping neighbours protect their homes. “It feels different than fighting the flood in ’97.” My sister commented after sandbagging for neighbours. “We know these people!” Our kitchen ladies are preparing food, and delivering it to people at various local sandbagging sites. “Well, I know now where the saying ‘enough food for an army’ comes from,” someone else quipped, after serving army personnel for a few hours. “We ran a bit short.” Next day we served, stew, fresh buns, cookies and coffee to the hungry troops and this time there was enough. “You have no idea how much we appreciate your home-cooked meals!” one man told has, “Beats army rations.”
When the breach happens, ninety present of our fields will be affected. This would have dire ramifications on this year’s crops. “We should be seeding already!” One of our men stated his voice gruff with concern. “Each day we’re unable to seed, diminishes potential yields.” However, we can’t worry about that now, and fortunately there’s something we can do to help save the neighbour’s homes from the menacing flood waters.

  So far, the water flowing through the breach has not caused any major damage and has only reached the dike of a few houses. Although the flooded fields, including one of ours, will not be seeded any time soon, if at all. The water may not even reach as many homes as they first thought, which should alleviate some stress. However, things could still change as the Elm River is rising and the water is spreading, albeit slowly.
Despite the fact that we’re in a crisis, it seems humour is helping people cope. “Free water! Take a much as you like,” reads a homemade sigh on a post. “River Front Property – any offers?” another boasts.  At a citizenship ceremony on Manitoba Day, MP, Candace Hoeppner, generated some chuckles when she mentioned the flood in her speech. “To some, Manitoba is not that old. Today marks 141 years and right now we’re experiencing water retention, a sure sign of old age.”
We’re grateful for all the people from near and far contacting us, obviously concerned for our safety. “Please call me if you need any help.” One friend from St. Anne wrote. “As we are high and dry, I could round up people to come and help if you should need it.” The thoughts, prayers and offers of help are not taken for granted. Once again, Manitobans are reaching out to their fellowman -- generously and compassionately, in the true spirit of the prairies.               
(Read comments when this article appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on May 19, 2011.)

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