After a long winter that saw large snowdrifts both in town and out and deer forced into town because of the depth of snow, the people of Radville were more than ready to welcome spring.
Old Man Winter wasn’t letting go easily even after some melting had occurred. An early spring storm hit southern Saskatchewan over the weekend of April 2nd and 3rd leaving heavy, wet snow in drifts in its wake. Up until then, the melt had been quite orderly - there was certainly water in the fields and low places but that was to be expected.
Then the sun came out and temperatures rose. Throughout the weekend of April 9th and 10th temperatures hit +10°C. Snow melted at a much quicker rate with the new snow joining the flowing water. Chunks of ice and snow were caught up in the flow as the water began moving with speed and force.
For most folks, Monday, April 11th went on as usual. Snow was melting; the sun was shining, lifting spirits and encouraging people to be out and about. Those who commute to work could see the waters moving and how quickly the snow was disappearing the in the sun’s warmth.
There was another group of people paying attention to the melt and flow of water.
Highways personnel, Laurier Reeve, Gene Gilmore, the Mayor of Radville, Shirley Cancade, and both the RM and Town Councilors were carefully monitoring their areas.
The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority was monitoring water flow from their stations at Gibson Creek and Maxim.
“Monday between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. the water really came up,” states Radville Mayor, Shirley Cancade.
There was a lot of watching and waiting late into the evening Monday as Long Creek continued to rise.
Tuesday morning saw flood water beginning to flow over roads including both Highway #28 south and #377 west of Radville. Flood water was rising quickly and a lift station whose purpose is to supply water for the town of Radville was in jeopardy. Pumps had been installed to keep the floodwater under control, but it was not enough - they were not able to keep up to the rising water.
It would only be a matter of time before the water would reach the power source for the lift station and it would shut down.
The Mayor and Town Council made the decision to declare “A State of Emergency” at about 8:00 a.m. when it became clear that the town’s water supply was threatened. Headquarters were set up in the Innovation Centre to coordinate planning and handle inquiries from the public and the press.
With the “State of Emergency” in place the Town of Radville Volunteer Fire Department was joined by the Chief and members of the Weyburn Fire Department. The decision was made to request that Grade 10, 11 and 12 students from the Radville Regional High School fill sandbags so the lift station would have another line of defense against the rising flood waters.
Students arrived, as well as other volunteers, and sandbags were soon ready for the members of the two fire departments to sandbag the pumphouse. The sandbagging was done in water deep enough that they couldn’t see exactly how they were placing the sandbags. They persevered and a wall of sandbags grew around the entire outside of the pumphouse. When one looks at the pumphouse itself it is hard to imagine how such an innocuous building could be so vital to the town.
The Weyburn Fire Chief commented on the willingness and efforts of the high school students, saying they were quick and efficient and how that really makes a difference in this kind of situation.
There were extra sandbags filled and placed on pallets ready to be loaded and moved to wherever they were needed, be it on a farm in the RM or a property in town.
While the students worked at filling sandbags, those at the school were also busy lending a hand of support. They sent sandwiches to all who were busy filling the sandbags, helping to keep their energy up with food.
On Tuesday morning while the sandbagging was taking place, dikes at the Harvey and Stacie Turcotte residence and Mike and Rebecca Gosling residence were raised by 2.5 feet to prevent any more floodwaters from entering the properties which lie to the northeast of Nelson Motors. A pump removed water from the yard as floodwater lapped close to the edge of the topped-up dike. The effort was enough to stop any more water from entering the area.
On Tuesday afternoon, at about 1:30 p.m. the RM of Laurier also declared a “State of Emergency”. A number of low-level crossing on Long Creek were under water and waters were flowing, covering farm land and really beginning to affect travel throughout the rural municipality.
Throughout Tuesday floodwater continued to rise. The handrail on the Laurier Creek Bridge had to be cut to allow the ice and debris to flow. Though attempts were made to direct the ice under the bridge it eventually became too much and for the safety of the bridge it was decided to cut the rails. “I’ve never seen water over the top of the handrails on Laurier Bridge,” stated Reeve Gene Gilmore.
Not only the Laurier Bridge was underwater. The rodeo grounds were inundated and the CN trestle was completely covered. Viewed from the Larsen Dam, Radville seemed to have a full-size rushing river running to its north rather than friendly Long Creek.
To the south, the spillway was a torrent of water so strong that waves crashed over like rapids in a river. For awhile, it was feared that the old CNR Dam which also had flood water flowing over it, might give way. It held and the homes in the nearest vicinity were saved from sure destruction. In the midst of all the water, a pair of geese could be seen swimming quite contentedly off to one edge. They didn’t seem to mind at all.
In the town itself, it was hard to tell that flood waters were so close and so threatening. Business went on pretty much as usual. E. Bourassa and Sons were dealing with a lot of flood water flowing through their property and Nelson’s had some machine parts that took a bath in the flood water. There were a number of driveways whose culverts washed out along #28 Highway, but on the whole life went on as usual.
The Fire Chief even took some time out to accompany the Bully Free Me Walk put on by students from St. Olivier and RRHS with a fire truck, using the siren to help create awareness of the walk from St. Olivier School down Main Street.
Back at the lift station men in the bucket of a loader kept constant watch on the pumps working to keep the flood waters at bay. It was imperative to keep the pumps running. Others waited nearby, ready to come to the assistance of those at the lift station. They also had generators ready if the power did fail at any time. Monitoring was maintained for many hours including right through the night. Dwight Fisher hauled his ice-fishing shack to the site to give somewhere for the crew to gather, eat and warm up between shifts rather than sitting in trucks.
Late Tuesday afternoon, MLA Doreen Eagles and MLA Dustin Duncan arrived in Radville and spent the next few hours touring the flood scene with Mayor Shirley Cancade. They stopped and visited with volunteers and homeowners affected by the flood waters.
While Radville flood waters peaked somewhere between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Tuesday night, peak waters didn’t leave the SE corner of the RM till early Friday.
“The flood has been handled amazingly well,” spoke Reeve Gene Gilmore. “I’ve seen 6 or 8 of these in my lifetime and for most farmers this isn’t the first time they have had to deal with flood water. Cattle have been moved to higher ground where needed and where people need they have alternative ways to get around the closed roads.”
s of Thursday the peak water had not yet left the SE corner of the RM. It had dropped 12 inches at the Laurier Bridge. While that was a significant drop, one still couldn’t see the deck of the bridge yet. At that time the water had dropped 8 inches at the pumphouse and at Victor Bert’s the water had only gone down 1.5 inches and at the Gilmore Bridge it was peaking, with no drop recorded.
While Friday morning brought a breath of fresh air for those in Radville, things were still amiss in the RM. In Radville the water had receded from the back of the pump house. If the water were to rise again then the pumps would once again run, but it was a great relief to know they had pulled through the flood and not lost the pumphouse.
In the RM, the Jalbert Bridge on 705 east had its abutment repaired twice to keep it operational. There were 5 roads closed: Laurier Road; Bouchard road; the road by Lawrence Cherpin’s; the road by Phil Carlson’s; “the old grid” by Victor Bert’s place and another 6 roads were flagged, which means they were open but had water over them that were crossable if one was careful.
For everyone’s safety it has been advised NOT to remove or go around any barricades. They are there for a reason. If you do chose to go around a barricade and drive through flood water you could not only be putting your life at risk, you could end up causing emergency vehicles and personnel to be put at risk when they come to your assistance.
EMO Coordinator, Leanna Wallin is keeping the RM map updated daily as to road closures and other hazards so that if emergency vehicles do need to get access somewhere they will know what route to take.
On Thursday evening, after putting in a day’s work, Chris Weber and Scott Biss headed out and did the weekly garbage pick up for the town, keeping the town employees free to do other things as needed.
Throughout the week, area residents and businesses donated food, snacks and beverages to the frontline workers and those at the emergency centre. It is the generous acts such as these that helped to keep spirits high in those directly working with the flood.
While the command office is still in place at the Innovation Centre it has been on standby since Friday morning. Should conditions change everything is there and ready to go. “It (the flood) could have been much worse - the weather cooled and the melt slowed. It went as well as we could have hoped it to go,” stated Mayor Shirley Cancade.
On Saturday, April 16th the RM of Laurier was busy repairing the abutment’s to the Martin Bridge located on the “old grid”. The west abutment took 24 cubic yards of product to fill the hole caused by the speed of the water eating the abutment away from below. After pressure testing the east side, it failed and 8 cubic yards of product was added to repair it.
Reeve, Gene Gilmore said, “The roads look amazingly good, but the abutments will be the focus of daily checks for up to the next month.” If anyone sees any type of hole anywhere close to a bridge call the RM office and let them know so they can check it out.
This is a flood that will stand out in the minds of people for many years to come. “I’ve never seen flood water come this close to town and never seen it over the CN bridge,” offered life-long resident of the area, Alexina Verot.
Elda Henheffer had this to say. “There have been floods where the bridge (Highway #28) has been covered with water, but that was in July.”
For the most part the town of Radville has come through this 1 in 50 year flood pretty much unscathed. It does not mean, however, that there have been no effects. The Water Treatment Plant has been stressed by the flood and it is imperative that town residents do everything possible to conserve water. There are many little things that each of us can do to help and if this is not forth-coming then the Town may have no choice but to turn water access off for 6 hour intervals to help the plant do its work.
In the days and weeks to come, lets see the same spirit that brought folks together to fight the flood work together to get the town and surrounding area looking as close as possible to the way it was before the flood waters began to flow.