'We're doing the best we can'

RIVERS, MB — Craig Mayor sat on his deck midday Thursday contemplating information he received earlier.

Mayor lives at Chimo Beach Resort approximately three kilometres outside Rivers, on the southeast side of Lake Wahtopanah’s flooded shoreline. The combination of unprecedented rain and flow from upstream on the Little Saskatchewan River filled the town’s lake reservoir. Officials, for the 24 hours prior, had been speaking of the possibility the dam might breach, warning communities downstream to be ready for evacuation.

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"They’re calling for gale-force winds. I’m hoping it goes that way …" he said, pointing away from his home.

And more rain, Mayor added.

"Everybody’s crossing their fingers," he said about the dam.

"If we get more water tonight, they’ll be crossing them more. They’re worried about it letting go. Somebody opened up the dam in Minnedosa and allowed the water to come here. The engineer, he’s trying to save his town, but don’t worry about the guys down the road."

He said the scene in Rivers could turn into "a real shitshow."

"It already is, but it could get worse."

He said his home, which he moved into in 2008, is saved so far.

Since Wednesday, when friends and neighbours filled his yard to install protective aqueducts — long plastic tubes filled with water — and sandbags, the water had receded somewhat. A grassy area with a picnic table was now exposed. Much more encouraging than on Wednesday, when the water came up under the table.

All told, the implacable water advanced approximately 42 feet since Sunday night’s storm.

"Never did I ever think we’d get water here," Mayor said.

Now, Mayor is at the mercy of the wind’s direction, as well as any rainfall that might come. It wouldn’t take much at this point for the situation to get much worse.

The 60-year-old is worn out. He has had more than his share of tragedies. His son died in a head-on collision not two weeks after the family bought the home. His wife died. In 2012, he had a heart attack. His daughter, Krystal, is keeping a close eye on him.

"We’re doing the best we can. The last time I sandbagged, I was 14 or younger," he said, adding Krystal made him take a time out from sandbagging on Tuesday when he looked strained.

His son-in-law planned to join him later Thursday to help place another layer of sandbags on the lake side of the aqueduct. They were considering piling another aqueduct on top of the three already in place.

"I’m disappointed with the EMO (emergency response) people. They brought the trailers and put out the bags, unlocked them at the top of the hill and said, ‘There ya go.’ Nobody showed us how to put these (aqueducts) together. They said, ‘He’s on his way from Winnipeg.’ Still hasn’t got here," Mayor said.

"Thank Christ for the two women who knew what to do with them."

Despite his troubles, Mayor kept up a tradition he began back when he moved onto the property — he set off fireworks the evening of July 1. The annual 60-person pig roast will have to wait. But he’s determined to see it happen.

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