Whiteshell property owners prepare to stay and fight flood despite evacuation order

Resort owner Amy Vereb says she will be one of many people in the Whiteshell staying behind to protect their properties from rising floodwaters after an expanded evacuation order goes into effect Tuesday. 

“There’s lots of us out here that this is all we have, and I just don’t think that people realize that,” said Vereb, who owns Otter Falls Resort.

“This isn’t just cottage country.”

The evacuation order for the northern part of Whiteshell Provincial Park in eastern Manitoba is expanding at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Vereb has watched Margaret Lake rise from the beach to within a few feet of the door of her resort’s main lodge over the last week.

“It’s devastation here,” she said.

“Lots of people are going to lose everything. I’m lucky right now. My home’s on high ground. My lodge is not. We’re trying to save that, but a lot of people have lost everything.”

The areas in red on this map are covered by the expanded closure area, the province says. (Submitted by Manitoba Goverment)

Vereb and her husband are sending their two young children to stay with their grandparents, while they stay behind to work with friends, family and neighbours to lay sandbags.

Many people in the community feel they haven’t gotten the support they need from the government, Vereb said.

“That’s what I’m hearing from local people is just the frustration that they’re not getting enough help. We’re doing the best we can here with our family and friends and the support from the guys across the road.”

The evacuation area extends from the Highway 307 west entrance east to the junction of highways 307 and 309. 

Sylvia Lake, Eleanor Lake, Otter Falls, Barrier Bay and Nutimik Lake will be closed as well as the current Betula Lake closure area announced on Friday, the province said in a news release on Sunday.

The province urges people not to enter or return to their properties in the area. Anyone already there should plan to leave as soon as possible.

Nightly and seasonal camping at the Dorothy Lake, Opapiskaw and Nutimik Lake campgrounds and the nightly campground at Big Whiteshell Lake south shore closed on Monday at 3 p.m. The closures will remain in effect until June 6, the province said.

All backcountry campsites in Whiteshell Provincial Park are closed.

Many highways are flooded and could flood even more, making travel conditions treacherous.

Heavy spring precipitation across southern and central Manitoba have pushed water levels to their highest points in years, and the Whiteshell has been hit particularly hard. The precipitation in the Whiteshell lakes area exceeded weather records dating back to 1951.

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