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Sandbags on the way to Winnipeg properties as water rises

Tuesday, April 7th 2020, 10:12 am - Physical distancing may mean building dikes takes a little more time

CBC: The properties at risk of flooding are experienced in building dikes, said the city, but this year they'll need to manage with two metres distance between people, due to COVID-19 risk. The properties at risk of flooding are experienced in building dikes, said the city, but this year they'll need to manage with two metres distance between people, due to COVID-19 risk. Courtesy: CBC.

The City of Winnipeg hopes 41 property owners will have their dikes up by the end of this coming weekend and wants them built with physical distancing health measures in use.

A crest at the city's monitoring gauge at James Avenue is due between April 12 and 17, according to the latest provincial flood forecast.

The most recent assessment has dropped the risk of flooding slightly.

The city is delivering sandbags to 41 properties, and another 16 properties remain at risk of river flooding and may require dikes.

"These are our homeowners ... that understand that their property is on the river, and they understand that they are in a flood plain and almost yearly are required to build a sandbag dike. These homeowners are experienced in doing so," said assistant chief Jason Shaw, the city's emergency operations manager.

The COVID-19 health emergency has placed an extra burden on those property owners when asking for volunteers and building the sandbag dikes: the requirement to stay two metres away from anyone not in their household.

"We are going to try and assist the homeowners with using social distancing with good information so that they can reach out to their volunteers and make sure that they're doing their best," Shaw told reporters on a briefing call Monday.

CBC: Jay Shaw, assistant chief of emergency management for the City of Winnipeg, left, says the city will help if property owners are struggling to get volunteers to sandbag. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC) Jay Shaw, assistant chief of emergency management for the City of Winnipeg, left, says the city will help if property owners are struggling to get volunteers to sandbag. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The province of Manitoba published guidelines for building dikes and observing physical distance rules.

Shaw says some common sense rules apply to building the dikes and following health rules; don't show up to help if you feel sick, wear gloves, wash your hands often and follow the rules set out by the province.

Shaw says the city has made approximately 200,000 sandbags in preparation for this year's flood.

"We won't require that many for what were the predicted river levels, but we always like to be prepared … we are well stocked," Shaw said.

COVID-19 and flooding: How Manitoba is preparing amid pandemic

Shaw says the city will step up with extra assistance if a property owner has trouble getting volunteers or getting a dike up before the crest.

"It is still the responsibility of the homeowner to secure volunteers and to build their own dike but, we're there to backup our residents and help, for sure," Shaw said.

This article, written by Sean Kavanagh, was originally published for CBC News.

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