Residents sandbag to stem rising river

As runoff from Sunday and Monday’s intense thunderstorms poured into the Rainy River, the water rose to critical levels Tuesday morning.
That forced Rainy River town council to declare a state of emergency. The call for volunteers to sandbag went out shortly after 9 a.m.—and their numbers rose as steadily as the water did.
The government dock saw the water rise an astounding three feet Monday. The water reached the collar on the dock Tuesday morning and began spilling into Hannam Park.
Coun. Larry Armstrong had placed a marked stake in the park at the edge of the water, which was about 20 feet from the road at around 6
a.m. By 2 p.m., the water had moved past the stake by about 10 feet
and risen up it about eight inches.
The Rainy River Fire Department was called into action around noon yesterday to use the pumper truck. Firefighter Morris Mykytyn and riverfront homeowner Richard Trenchard said they had run out of pumps around town.
Firefighters began pumping water from the north side of River Avenue West while the town crew filled in the culverts with gravel and sand bags.
By mid-afternoon, the plan was in place to build a berm along River Avenue West and to continue sandbagging where needed.
Homes in the new subdivision along the river were sandbagged by hundreds of volunteers. Chains quickly erected sandbag barriers around the homes while even more people worked to fill them at the municipal garage.
People from all over the area, including neighbours from the U.S. side, were on hand to help out.
Dave Kempenich of Baudette said he had helped sandbag there Monday and that they had secured enough bags to fill the low areas along the river.
“I am just helping out wherever I am needed,” he remarked.
Former Rainy River Mayor Gord Armstrong was asked to head up the command center at the town office. He has the experience of the 1997 flood behind him.  He and town clerk Deb Bowman worked the phones all day and made
some headway with Abitibi-Consolidated mill in Fort Frances, which had announced Tuesday it was going to open eight gates on the dam—and possibly more later in the day or Wednesday.
“They said they will only open seven today [Tuesday] and will hold
off on any more as long as possible,” noted Bowman.
Coun. Armstrong also said they had been in contact with the Lake of the Woods Water Control Board on Tuesday morning, which did not believe it was flooding in Rainy River.
The Rainy River Record e-mailed the board some photos and it now believes. However, it did not commit to opening the gates on the Norman Dam in Kenora.
Meanwhile, other volunteers worked all day to cook food and provide drinks for the army of workers. But Bowman said the worst is yet to come and she was worried about burning out the volunteers too quickly.
“Send some home if they are not needed now and have them come back later,” she said.
The town only has about 10,000 sandbags in reserve although Gord Armstrong said they have a line on more if they need them. The problem is highway washouts have all but cut off the area.

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