Up to 38 homes and 83 people were evacuated in southern Manitoba on Wednesday night, July 1, 2020, as the Rivers Dam hit its highest level in a "once-in-1 000-year" event, said Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler. The incident was unprecedented and unimaginable, according to Rural Municipality of Riverdale Mayor Todd Gill.
"I don't think anybody could have conceivably anticipated this much water coming at us, and it came at us at an incredibly fast rate," Schuler stated at a news conference Thursday afternoon, July 2.
"The government no longer has confidence in the structure in the dam at Rivers, Manitoba."
Engineers are on-site to monitor the spillway for any signs of trouble, he added. The province also deployed 11 standard emergency response trailers, including water pumps and water tubes.
The water flows from Lake Wahtopanah and the Little Saskatchewan River at the dam are more than 340 cubic m per second (12 000 cubic feet per second), which surpassed the 2011 flood levels.
"The water level at the Rivers Dam is at its highest level, ever," Schuler noted, calling it a "once-in-1 000-year" event.
Good Morning from Rivers, MB where the Little Saskatchewan River is looking mighty this morning as it continues to take on record amounts of water. The state of the dam is prompting recommendations to evacuate some areas. The lastest on @globalwinnipeg and @680CJOB. #MBStorm pic.twitter.com/6Y5rHhPXnH— Corey Callaghan (@CoreyACallaghan) July 2, 2020
The pic on the left is the bridge over the Little Saskatchewan River on Hwy 25 - on the right is typical of many culvert washouts isolating many farms. pic.twitter.com/XOw6TlkM2x— Donald Lepp (@DonaldLepp) July 2, 2020
Heavy downpours have caused water levels to rise in creeks and rivers in the area. The town of Neepawa has already declared a local state of emergency due to high water levels along the Whitemud River.
In areas near the Little Saskatchewan River Valley, Gill said 38 families had evacuated after days of intense rains in the southwest and western Manitoba.
Northwest Saskatchewan was hit by rare flooding this week, which was described as the worst in 46 years.
"It’s not only unprecedented but unimaginable, really," Gill said Thursday. "Never would anybody imagine what we are facing right now."
Hours after the evacuations, people downstream of the dam were keeping an eye on the structure to see if it will withstand the water accumulating over the past days, Gill added.
"People are literally right on site, 24 hours a day, monitoring and studying this structure because it's got a wall of water behind it that nobody has ever seen before," the mayor said.
Some areas have received record-high rainfall of more than 200 mm (8 inches) this week.
Featured image credit: Donald Lepp.