Strong winds, high water levels lead to flooding along western shores of Lake Winnipeg

People living in and around Gimli, Man. are cleaning up after high lake levels and heavy winds caused flooding along the western shores of Lake Winnipeg.

The situation sent waves crashing onto lakefront properties and swamped some popular destinations over the weekend, prompting calls for a better warning system to respond to similar situations in the future.

“We were looking at the clouds and they were massive,” said Gimli resident Penny Ross. “I’ve never seen big clouds like that. They were really black. They were like a monster coming towards you.”

Ross was surveying the damage Monday with her mom, after photos circulated on social media showing the Gimli seawall and harbour flooded.

Fortunately, the water had receded amid shifting and calmer winds.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) said heavy winds over a sustained period of time caused lake water to pile up on shore - a phenomenon known as a seiche.

“If the lake levels are high, then of course it can gush on shore and cause issues, which is what seems to have happened there,” said ECCC Meteorologist Terri Lang.

Properties on Willow Island were among the hardest hit. Some residents of the area just south of Gimli told CTV News Winnipeg they received little to no warning from local officials about the impact of the storm on their homes and on the roads on the island.

“They would like us to try and get some kind of a warning out on our website which our administration is going to work on,” said Lynn Greenberg, mayor of the R.M. of Gimli.

Greenberg said some properties were damaged and basements flooded because of the rain and wind, but he couldn’t immediately provide an exact number.

He said he’s concerned about the impact of the high lake levels because of the potential for more severe weather throughout the remainder of summer and fall.

“It’s never a good scene when somebody gets flooded,” Greenberg said.

The lake currently sits more than 717 feet above sea level, which is more than two feet above its recommended maximum operating range.

It is a factor Ross worries could cause more problems.

“We haven’t had it this high, well none of us can remember seeing the lake this high because we’ve had so much water this year that it just keeps on expanding and expanding,” Ross said.

The province said in a statement its Emergency Coordination Centre is responding to the unprecedented flooding across Manitoba and continues to support municipalities in their flood fighting and recovery efforts.

A provincial spokesperson said municipalities are responsible for giving support and direction to their residents.

No damage estimates from the winds in Gimli were immediately available.

The province said a Disaster Financial Assistance program has already been set up to ensure flood relief’s available.