Floods force more residents from homes in Roche Percee

00:53 Jun 21 2011 Roche Percee, Saskatchewan

While he has tried to remain stoic, it is sometimes difficult for Roche Percee Mayor Reg Jahn to hide his emotions after watching water swallow much of his village.

"I want to cry," Jahn said Monday. "A guy is sick, but you have to realize there is nothing you can do."

As of midday Monday, all but about 20 of Roche Percee's 200 residents had evacuated as water levels on the Souris River continued to rise.

While it was expected that some homes in Roche Percee would flood as more water was released from the Rafferty and Boundary dams upstream, residents did not guess that so many would be affected.

Jahn thought his own home would be safe because it is situated six feet higher than what was considered the flood level.

Now his basement is full of water and he expects that there may also be water on the main floor. At least one home on the valley floor, he suggested, could be completely submerged.

The evacuations weren't limited to that town as 400 people were ordered from Willow Park Greens Trailer Park near Estevan late Sunday. Dozens more have left their homes in the surrounding rural municipality.

The water level on the Souris through Estevan and Roche Percee was rising again Monday after the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority was forced on Sunday to increase outflows from Rafferty and Boundary from 450 cubic metres per second (cms) to a combined 555 cms, which it was anticipated would increase the level on the river by a halfmetre.

On Monday, the combined outflow was increased to 638 cms and another 30 cms were expected to be released from Boundary either Monday night or today, bringing the total downstream to 668 cms.

"The bottom line is there is an awful lot of rainfall and an awful lot of water is coming," said Dale Hjertaas, executive director of policy and communications with the watershed authority. "The capacity of the reservoir to hold it back is limited and therefore most of it needs to be passed on through at this point.

"Rafferty was designed to provide flood protection at the one-in-100-year flood event and we're having much more than that."

It is expected that outflows will remain high for at least the rest of this week.

The rainwater was also forcing drivers to take detours around the province. The Trans-Canada Highway was closed Monday between Whitewood and Balgonie - a 150-kilometre stretch - which led drivers on a 275km detour to Yorkton.

Highway 39 north of Weyburn was closed to westbound traffic and Highway 35 south of the city was closed entirely.

Highway 18 west of Estevan was closed, as was Highway 47 between Estevan and the U.S. border. Dozens of rural roads in the area are topped with water.

The water has also restricted access into Sask-Power's Boundary Dam power station since the Crown corporation could not haul coal over the only road that is still accessible. There are 170,000 tonnes of coal stockpiled which should last several weeks.

Many displaced residents seem to be doing well despite their latest hardships - although the shock has been harder on some than others.

"One of the young ladies with a young family stopped to talk to me," Jahn recalled, "And said, 'It could be worse. If we'd have had a tornado and our kids were gone, we wouldn't know where they were. That would be worse than this because at least we're safe. We may be out of our homes and we may lose everything, but we can always build.'

"For the people my age and older, it is worse because we don't have a lot of time left to rebuild."
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