FLOODS

Kayak (Canada) - - FEATURE STORY -

Early farm­ers who came to what is now the Win­nipeg area from Scot­land were known as the Selkirk Set­tlers. By 1826, they had al­ready faced dis­ease, harsh weather and bat­tles over the fur trade. It was early May, but there was still thick ice on the Red River. Heavy rains sent huge chunks of ice along the swollen river, smash­ing and sweep­ing away houses, barns, trees and farm an­i­mals. Many set­tlers fi­nally gave up and left for the United States. An earth­quake off the coast of New­found­land’s Burin Penin­sula in 1929 caused a tsunami — a huge tidal wave trav­el­ling 40 kilo­me­tres per hour — that roared up on shore on Nov. 18. It flooded vil­lages and washed houses out to sea, killing 28 peo­ple, the most ever to die in Canada be­cause of an earth­quake. An ear­lier storm had bro­ken the tele­graph line, so it was three days be­fore the gov­ern­ment learned what had hap­pened. When B.C.’s Fraser River flooded in 1948, it forced 16,000 peo­ple from their houses and de­stroyed 2,000 homes. Heavy fall rains, a win­ter with lots

of snow and a cold spring that meant frozen ground and icy rivers re­sulted in the dis­as­trous 1950 Win­nipeg flood. The Red River was al­ready at flood level when a huge storm of rain and snow pushed it over dikes and sand­bags on May 5. The water ripped apart bridges, de­stroyed build­ings, flooded 1,500 square kilo­me­tres of farm­land and drove tens of thou­sands of peo­ple from their homes. The dis­as­ter prompted gov­ern­ments to build the Red River Flood­way to con­trol water in the fu­ture. In 1997, water lev­els were al­ready high when a bliz­zard dumped 50 cen­time­tres of snow on Win­nipeg. When it melted, the re­sult was what’s of­ten called the Flood of the Cen­tury, but it would have been much worse with­out the changes made af­ter the 1950 flood. A month’s worth of rain fell on Que­bec’s Sague­nay re­gion from July 18 to 21, 1996, trig­ger­ing floods and mud­slides that tore away bridges, roads, build­ings and trees. The mud and water killed 10 peo­ple and caused more than $1.5 bil­lion worth of dam­age.

Houses un­der water in the Win­nipeg Flood of 1950

Mea­sur­ing the flow in the 1997 Win­nipeg flood

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