Evacuation order issued, closures expanded in Whiteshell Provincial Park

The province is advising of a mandatory evacuation order and expanding closures in the northern area of Whiteshell Provincial Park, taking effect Tuesday

Affected areas for the evacuation order and expanded closures run from the park's west entrance at the north end, eastward along Provincial Road (PR) 307 to where the road meets PR 309, the province said in a release issued late Sunday night.

Sylvia Lake, Eleanor Lake, Otter Falls, Barrier Bay and Nutimik Lake are all affected by the expanded closure, which includes the existing Betula Lake closure area announced on Friday.

"Rising water levels and rapidly evolving conditions are posing a significant risk to public safety. People are strongly urged to not enter the area or return to their properties, and for those already there, plan to leave at the earliest opportunity," reads the release.

Both the evacuation order and expanded closure apply to all cottages, commercial areas, campgrounds, recreational areas, trails and beaches.

Timelines have been provided for the evacuation order and expanded closure and are as follows:

  • Tuesday, May 24, at 12p.m. - Manitoba Parks will finish preparatory activities (e.g. sand bagging operations) at Otter Falls
  • Tuesday, May 24, at 5p.m. - the expanded closure area will be implemented and all residents and park users will need to evacuate by this time.

All backcountry campsites in Whiteshell Provincial Park will also be closed immediately by the province.  

AREA RESIDENTS DEALING WITH FLOODING

Heather Howie, who lives in the Otter Falls area, said she’s been sandbagging for more than a week now.

“The water has been rising for a week and a half. So we put up our first dike on Saturday [May 14] in our yard and the storm blew it out on Wednesday night,” she said in an interview on Monday, May 23, noting she ended up with trees and docks on her property.

She said if she has to evacuate she will likely go to a hotel in the area.

Howie added she thinks there needs to be effective communication from the province when it comes to the flood response.

“I’m pretty frustrated…they need to put people to work to help people out here,” she said.

Howie said she thinks the army needs to come help respond to the situation.

“The army is needed up here. It would be so fast if we had extra resources up here,” she said.

- With files from CTV’s Danny Halmarson and Kayla Rosen.