CP: flooding turns Saskatchewan highway into river, forcing evacuations

Jennifer Graham for The Canadian Press, June 20, 2011

WEYBURN, Sask. – Communities across soggy southeastern Saskatchewan are dealing with displaced residents, sewage-flooded basements and suspect drinking water — the unwanted byproducts of days of rain that has overwhelmed rivers and swollen reservoirs.

“It’s pretty ugly,” said Dustin Bell, who said there’s so much water around his home a couple of kilometres northeast of Weyburn that he can’t drive out to get to work.

“Unfortunately we can’t stop because of this so we had to get a rope and a boat and pull ourselves in.”

The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority warned Monday that levels could rise another half metre in the partially flooded communities of Estevan and Roche Percee, downstream from Weyburn, after more water was released from dams on the Souris River.

Some residents say they don’t understand why floodgates on the dams are being opened when communities downstream are already under water.

But authority spokesman Dale Hjertaas said the reservoirs simply can’t hold back the huge amount of water.

“Everything is very saturated so all the water is running off now,” Hjertaas said.

“The bottom line is … an awful lot of rain fell and an awful lot of water is coming, and the capacity of the reservoir to hold it back is limited. Therefore, most of it needs to be passed on through at this point.”

The areas affected were along the Souris, about an hour and a half southeast of Regina. There were also problems just east of Regina, where the Trans-Canada Highway was closed Monday because it was submerged under several metres of water.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall toured the southern areas Monday and said it’s not clear yet how much it will cost the government to help the communities.

“It’s in the millions of dollars certainly and there’s two levels of costs. There would be one to the municipalities that already had a lot of stressed infrastructure because of so much rain,” said Wall.

“We’ve just told them, do what you need to do and we’ll be there for you.”

Wall, who delayed his trip to the western premiers conference in Yellowknife, called the torrents of water that have washed through the area unprecedented.

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