Overland flooding wrecks roads, threatens bridges in western Manitoba

Overland flooding has caused significant damage to roads in sections of western Manitoba and is threatening to destroy even more infrastructure if it persists. 

“We’re gonna have probably some bridges washed out, a lot of culverts washed out,” Brad Wyatt, councillor for the Mafeking ward in the Rural Municipality of Mountain, said Saturday.

Wyatt said he was particularly concerned about a bridge going over the Steep Rock River, roughly six kilometres north of Mafeking. He said from his preliminary assessment, the major damage appears to be to provincial roads and infrastructure.

“We’ll have some problems with our culverts and our roads and such. But these bridges I’m talking about, these are on major highways into northern Manitoba, so there could be a lot of infrastructure damages that could amount to millions of dollars,” Wyatt said.

Paige Wozny, the chief administrative officer for the Rural Municipality of Mountain, said they haven’t yet determined the full extent of the damage so far.

“We’re going to have to do road checks and go out and see,” she said.

Wozny said the community of Pine River is being impacted. 

“There was some sandbagging happening in Pine River — they have a dike that goes through the town that was breached yesterday,” she said Saturday morning.

“We’ve had a significant amount of rain in the last week, and this has caused a lot of our rivers and creeks to flood over their banks and it’s washing out our roads — so far, just our roads,” Wozny added.

She said while the area has had flooding before, it hasn’t been this bad in about five to seven years.

Wyatt said the slowness of the winter weather to leave the area may have contributed to the flooding when rain came last week. 

“It was so late up here — the last of our snow just left here … no more than a week ago. So the ground was saturated so bad, it couldn’t take any more water,” he said. 

Roads closed

The provincial government says Highway 10 is closed from just west of Dauphin all the way to Swan River due to flooding, as well as in the Mafeking area, north of Swan River, due to a bridge being washed out.

“There are people who are having to use different access routes because the roads are washed away and you can’t access certain roads,” Wozny said.

The province advised those travelling between Swan River and Dauphin to detour on highways 5 and 83, through Roblin, as a section of Highway 20 was also closed due to flooding. 

WATCH | Facebook video shows washed out road in western Manitoba:

One traveller, Curtis Stevens, says his trip was delayed for about two hours Saturday morning. 

Stevens said he was travelling north of Swan River and was the “first one there this morning, south of Mafeking, where the road was washing out,” he said.

“Manitoba Highways stopped me and said it would take about an hour to clean off the road.”

Stevens said he saw a grader clean rocks and logs off the road, and he also noticed damage to the roadway. 

“One side of the shoulder was completely washed off, about 20 foot long — completely gone,” he said.

Those travelling to or around the RM of Mountain are being advised to rethink their plans. 

“We don’t recommend travelling on our municipal roads, especially near Pine River, as there are many roads that are washed out,” Wozny said. 

First Nation considering moving some residents

Meanwhile, the chief of Sapotaweyak Cree Nation says his community is considering moving people with medical emergencies as soon as the water allows it. 

Chief Nelson Genaille said he fears a bridge near the community may give out, which would virtually cut off residents from vital services.

He said with the highway south to Swan River now cut off, the next closest option for medical services and essentials is The Pas. 

So far, no evacuation orders have been issued in the RM of Mountain, Wozny said. Neither she nor Wyatt had heard any reports of evacuations as of Saturday.

Wozny said she knew of only one family that had to stay in Swan River because water had washed away their access road. 

Wyatt said the weather over the next 24 to 48 hours will determine whether any community will need special assistance. 

“Right now I don’t know of anyone being affected to be cut off, but that would sure happen if some of these bridges go,” he said.

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