While Americans have obsessed recently about flooding threats from the Red River to Fargo, North Dakota, a much larger Canadian city, Winnipeg, also faces flooding danger from the river. Canadians have been frantically piling sandbags along the river to protect their communities, and several local Hutterite colonies have pitched in to help.
Americans may view major winter blizzards as coming down out of Canada, but the people of Manitoba view the flood waters as a problem coming up out of the United States. Two weeks ago today, the residents of southern Manitoba became apprehensive about the rising water in the river. While they complained abut the lack of responsiveness of their federal government, they praised the volunteer spirit of the local people, including three Hutterite colonies that turned out to help with the sandbagging operations. Ice jams in the river, and additional snowfalls caused problems for workers trying to save the communities from the flooding.
By the end of that week, March 29th, the press reported that the volunteers and work crews were exhausted from all the labor. The Provincial Minister for water stewardship, Christine Melnick, commented, as she was helping fill sandbags, that volunteer assistance during the crisis has been invaluable. “There are people coming from all over southern Manitoba. We have an entire Hutterite colony who has come out,” she said. The prediction on the 29th was that the threat in Manitoba was not expected to be as severe as in Fargo, since Canada evidently has excellent defenses against flooding.
The news on Friday last week was not as optimistic. Work crews continued with their sandbagging operations, trying to save homes and communities from the threat of the rising water. Unfortunately, the sandbagging plant had to be shut down for servicing for a couple days, and so workers could again rest. The Hutterites continued to pitch in with other volunteers from the southern portion of the province. Emergency coordinator Paul Guyader said that “we’ve got high school kids, we had the Manitoba Métis Federation here, the Hutterites have been phenomenal.”
On Saturday, news reports indicated that the river was still rising. An emergency floodway around Winnipeg may be opened, the news reported, though ice jams in the river could pose serious problems for the operation of the diversion system. As with virtually all the news stories about the flooding, the volunteers, and particularly the Hutterites, were singled out in this story because of their assistance. Don Brennan, acting head of the Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization, praised the cooperation from everyone for helping out with the crisis.
“The communities themselves are all working as one and working to assist each other,” he said. “The team spirit is alive and well.” It appears from these news stories as if the Canadians really appreciate the helping spirit of their Hutterite neighbors. The river is expected to crest at Winnipeg today.