Man. storm strands farmers

Farm buildings and other infrastructure north of Brandon were severely damaged June 28-29 after a storm brought high winds and 120 to 160 millimetres of rain to the region.

Farmers in the area may struggle to get to their fields this summer because municipalities and the province will need to repair dozens of washed out roads and replace culverts.

“The culverts you thought were quite safe, are gone,” said Dan Mazier, who farms northeast of Brandon and is the MP for Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa.

“They weren’t designed for any of this kind of water.”

The storm hit in two waves on June 28, bringing 100 mm of rain in the first wave and another 25 to 60 mm in the second. Wind gusts knocked over grain bins and destroyed barns and structures in the path of the storm.

The damage seems to be localized — north of Brandon along Highway 10 to the community of Erickson near Riding Mountain National Park. The intense rain stretched west to Rivers and east to the Rural Municipality of Elton, but most of the precipitation fell in a narrow north-south band. Minnedosa received about 150 mm of rainfall while Neepawa, 25 km to the east, only got 35 mm.

Carberry, which is 40 km east of Brandon, received less than 10 mm.

Most cropland escaped severe damage because hail wasn’t part of the storm.

The region has rolling topography so a large portion of the rain didn’t infiltrate into the soil.

“We’re losing acres in low spots, but it seems to be running off so fast, or had ran off so fast, that a lot of the crop on higher ground looks surprisingly good…. The extent of moisture that actually went into the soil profile is certainly not the six, seven or eight inches that some areas received,” said Canola Council of Canada agronomist Angela Brackenreed, who farms near Minnedosa.

“But it’s pretty early. The concern is you get some anoxic (no oxygen) conditions and really stall out root growth.”

In the short term, it will be difficult for producers to get to Brandon or other communities in the region. Mazier’s farm is only about 15 to 20 km from Brandon, but he may have to drive east to go southwest.

“We’re telling everybody to go to Highway 5, through Carberry … to get to Brandon,” he said.

“It’s just that washed out. It’s crazy.”

Highway 10 is closed north of Brandon. A highway underpass at the Canadian National Railway main line was still filled with water last week, Mazier said.

A road that runs through the middle of his 2,000 acre farm is also washed out. That could cause headaches for fungicide spraying and other activities this summer.

Harvest is only 55 to 70 days away, depending on the crop, and repairing all the damaged culverts and roads in the region in two months may not be possible. Farmers may have to take much longer routes to truck grain back to the yard.

“There will be some challenges, that’s for sure,” Mazier said.

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