This continues a column that started last Monday about the Assiniboine River flood of 2011 in Brandon that threatened homes and prompted a massive evacuation.
The rising water on the Assiniboine River had made the valley south of the North Hill in Brandon a difficult proposition to navigate.
You couldn’t walk back and forth between the north side to Brandon and the south side. Guards would stop you at one of the bridges.
Foot traffic did two things. One, it created the possibility of people sneaking off to break into evacuated homes. And two, if the water did break through the sandbags or dikes, pedestrians would be in harm’s way.
I learned about this policy when I dropped the car off downtown for my wife and started to walk home, something I had done dozens upon dozens of times with my dog.
We got to the bottom of the bridge and were met by a security guard, who turned us around, telling us we needed to take a cab home. I figured that kind of defeated the purpose of the dog walk so I headed back to where I had parked the vehicle. Naturally my wife had already picked it up and gone home. We ended walking to my old workplace and calling my wife to come and get us. My dog got plenty of walking that day. And two car rides.
The biggest hazard lay on the easternmost part of the city where there were a business and a handful of homes.
Hundreds of volunteers did what they could to help sandbag some of the homes that would be affected in that area. Many of those battles were ultimately lost.
It was the Brandon mayor who signed me in as a volunteer on the day I went out. I was impressed that she was so actively involved.
But even she couldn’t control the water.
First Street was lost to the river for a time before the province helped raise the sandbag dike along the Assiniboine.
On 18th Street, two of the four lanes were closed even though it was now carrying all of the north-south traffic. A two-kilometre trip through the valley might take 30 minutes in the bumper-to-bumper traffic.
The big box Corral Centre was closed as a precaution; imagine if the Cornerstone district here in Prince Albert was shuttered.
A city of nearly 50,000 obsessively checked the latest water measurements. Was it up a centimetre? Was it down?
The river ended up nearly five metres higher than normal, peaking at 360.55 metres above sea level. The dike was built to 360.94, which meant that 15 inches stood between the river and the houses in the valley.
The previous record in 1923 of 359.66 was shattered.
The dike held, even as the water reached one-in-330 year flood levels. It took most of the summer for some flooded areas to dry out.
The evacuated people went home. The stuff in my basement was gradually put back in place, only to be moved for good here to Prince Albert less than a year later.
Some of my friends in Brandon are starting to worry about high water again after this stormy winter continues to dump snow all around us. If we have a wet spring, this could start all over again.
I’m not sure why all of the flood work that was discussed in the months after the water receded was not finished. It’s almost as if so much was done so quickly in the worst days of the crisis that the appetite for more work faded.
When a flood is considered to be an occurrence that happens every few centuries, it’s easy to imagine a degree of complacency developing.
Let’s hope we’re nearly done with the snow and that we have nice slow melt in the spring.
We could use a break and certainly the folks in Brandon could too.
Nobody needs that kind of stress twice in three years.