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Manitobans trying to keep heads above water in flooded Whiteshell

Friday, May 27th 2022, 4:55 am - Infrastructure minister says it's the most pressing area in province's flood zone

Property owners in southeastern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario are wrestling with rising floodwaters as levels continue to rise in the swollen Winnipeg River system.

"It's coming up, there's no stopping this," said Allison Thiessen, who owns Nutimik Lodge in Whiteshell Provincial Park.

The surrounding region is under a mandatory evacuation order, but Thiessen said a number of lodge owners have stayed to protect their properties.

She's been going back and forth to help every day, while her husband has been staying at the lodge to watch the sandbag dikes and the pumps.

In an interview with CBC News Thursday, she said the dikes at the lodge were holding.

A crew from parks, forestry, conservation and wildfire have also come in to help, she said.

nutimik-lodge-flooding-may-2022 Nutimik Lodge owner Allison Thiessen says they are working to hold off rising floodwaters. (Submitted by Nutimik Lodge)

Thiessen said she's also just been told other volunteers will be allowed to come into the area and help if needed.

"It is amazing news," said Thiessen. "[It's] relieved so much stress off my husband and I today. Both of us have been at breaking points and running on whatever fumes we have left."

She said her husband has been working non-stop since the flooding started, estimating he's only slept about six hours within the last week.

The two only took over the lodge five months ago, she said.

The Manitoba government said in its flood bulletin Wednesday that "rising water levels and rapidly evolving conditions are posing a significant risk to public safety."

The provincial bulletin said as of Tuesday the Whiteshell Provincial Park evacuation and closure area extends from the Seven Sisters entrance at the north end of the park along Provincial Road (PR) 307 eastward to the junction of PR 307 and PR 309.

nutimik-lodge-flooding Workers place sandbags to protect against rising water at Nutimik Lodge. (Submitted by Nutimik Lodge)

Affected areas include Sylvia Lake, Eleanor Lake, Otter Falls, Dorothy Lake, Barrier Bay, Nutimik Lake and Betula Lake, the release said.

"The most pressing area for the flood zone right now is definitely the Whiteshell," Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk said Thursday. "The water's still coming up on the Winnipeg River … coming from the Lake of the Woods and going to one lake to the next."

Earlier this week a provincial spokesperson said in a statement the Manitoba Wildfire Service deployed 84 personnel, as well as Incident Management Team members and two medics to support sandbagging operations in Whiteshell Provincial Park.

The statement said thousands of sandbags have been provided for use in the Whiteshell, and 1,000 feet of Tiger Dam tubes were filled at Nutimik Lake.

The province has also set up a call centre for property owners.

Ile des Chênes resident Lisa Downton said she's only seen the damage to her family cabin on Black Sturgeon Lake just north of Kenora in pictures.

black-sturgeon-lake-flooding Lisa Downton said she's only seen the damage to her family cabin on Black Sturgeon Lake just north of Kenora in pictures. (Gail Hulmes Bacskai)

"Everything is flooded … some of our docks are destroyed, our decks are destroyed, our sunroom is destroyed," said Downton. "By destroyed it's either underwater, or everything is crumpled up, ripped apart."

She said her family only found out the cabin had a history of flooding after they'd purchased it. They've been told their insurance won't cover any flood damage, she said.

She's still not clear exactly how much it will cost to repair the damage, but estimates it will be in the hundreds of thousands.

"All of our personal stuff is in there that's most likely destroyed, plus the cabin is destroyed and then … we now have the challenge and the struggle of trying to get the machinery out there to tear down the cabin, plus remove all of the materials."

black-sturgeon-lake-flooding-may-2022 Lisa Downton says she's been told insurance likely won't cover any of the damage caused by flooding at her cabin on Black Sturgeon Lake. (Gail Hulmes Bacskai)

Downton said her family is trying to stay positive since it was their cabin that was damaged, not their home.

"There are other people in our area that these are their homes and they've been evacuated," she said. "The roads are flooded. They've had to try and find places to stay…. And all of their personal belongings that they've kept, you know, in their home for their life possibly are destroyed as well."

The province said updated details on closures and advisories due to flooding are available at www.manitobaparks.com.

This article was originally published for CBC News, with files from Cory Funk and Meaghan Ketcheson.

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