July 06, 2014 - 1:17 PM
BRANDON, Man. - Stephen Harper is seeing the extent of Manitoba's flooding for himself.
The prime minister has taken a 20-minute helicopter tour of the swollen Assiniboine River near Brandon, Man.
The chopper took Harper, Premier Greg Selinger and other local MPs over flooded farmland and washed out roads.
The first crest from a torrent of floodwater coming from Saskatchewan is expected to hit Brandon at any time.
The river is lapping up against farm buildings and raised roads but hasn't forced any evacuations so far in Brandon.
Harper is now expected to go to a photo-op at Brandon city hall before leaving the province.
The city was pummelled Saturday by a violent, windy storm which dumped rain onto the soggy dikes and uprooted trees.
Officials say the dikes are holding but people living by the swollen Assiniboine River should be prepared to leave at a moment's notice.
People aren't expected to be evacuated unless there is a breach in the city's dikes.
"The storm did not impact the dike," the city said in its flood update Sunday morning. "Any water on the streets was rain water, not river water."
The floodwater coming from the west prompted Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger to declare a state of emergency Friday and ask for military assistance to prepare communities west of Winnipeg for the crest.
Some 300 soldiers from CFB Shilo near Brandon responded Saturday, filling hundreds of thousands of sandbags to help fend off the rising floodwater. Major Mike Legace, with the
Canadian Armed Forces, said the troops are trying to fill 125,000 sandbags a day as the crest bears down on southwestern Manitoba.
The soldiers are trying to protect 350 rural homes — 150 of which could be flooded if the province deliberately breaches a dike to take pressure off the Assiniboine River.
Officials say the flood situation in the province is changing rapidly and more water is pouring into Manitoba than officials initially predicted. Cutting through one of the dikes could happen Monday to ease some of the pressure on dikes holding back the swollen Assiniboine, but Selinger says it will only be done as a last resort.
Selinger ordered that done in 2011, deliberately flooding the same swath of land at the Hoop and Holler Bend in southern Manitoba and threatening homes in the area in order to save hundreds more downstream.
This summer flood caused by torrential rain last weekend is expected to topple records set in 2011.
People living along the river have been told the water level could swell half a metre above where it was three years ago. The 2011 flood was one of Manitoba's worst, as army reservists scrambled to help shore up weakened dikes and sandbag homes along the river.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2014