In the 40 years that he has owned a cottage in the Whiteshell, Kerry Davies has never seen flooding like he is seeing this spring, and as waters continue to rise, he is concerned about the damage being done to people’s physical property, but also to their mental wellbeing.
“I have seen nothing even close to this, nor have I ever seen anything this widespread,” Whiteshell cottage owner and past president of the Whiteshell Cottagers Association Kerry Davies said on Tuesday, as more and more Whiteshell and Winnipeg River area property owners and cottagers continued to face mandatory evacuation notices, because of rising waters in the area east of Winnipeg.
“Those that have had cottages for 60 plus years have never seen anything like this.”
Davies said the flooding comes after the area received the fifth most snowfall on record this winter, followed by the most ever precipitation in the region between April 1 and May. 15.
On Friday, the province declared a state of emergency in Whiteshell Provincial Park, and expanded mandatory evacuation notices for the northern part of the area came into effect at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
Davies said that left many scrambling to do what they could to protect their properties before being forced to leave the evacuation area.
And after the long and harsh winter that Manitoba just experienced, Davies said he knows many Whiteshell cottagers were looking forward to the opportunity to finally head back to the area, now that the weather has warmed up.
Davies said he now feels for the many now dealing with flood fears at what is typically the start of cottage season in Manitoba, and that he has seen a wide range of emotions from residents and cottage owners in recent days, as they began to understand the full scope of the flooding.
“It’s a mixed bag, from anxiety, sadness and desperation, to acceptance and resolve to put things back together when they can,” Davies said.
He said most lakes in the area were dealing with high waters on Tuesday, leaving many property owners dealing with different levels of threats to their properties, and their homes and cottages.
“There is no lake that has escaped damage,” Davies said. “Some lakes it was primarily shoreline infrastructure and docks and boathouses, with others it’s actually the cottage itself in peril.”
Premier Heather Stefanson took a helicopter tour of the flooded area on Tuesday alongside Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk, Environment, Climate and Parks Minister Jeff Wharton and NDP leader Wab Kinew.
The province said they are now “strongly advising” those who are in evacuation areas to get out as soon as they can.
“Rising water levels and rapidly evolving conditions are posing a significant risk to public safety. People are strongly urged to not enter the area or return to their properties, and for those already there, plan to leave at the earliest opportunity,” the province said in a news release.
“Many highways are flooded, with the potential for further flooding, making travel conditions treacherous.”
Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun