NEWS
03/27/2017 17:46 EDT | Updated 03/28/2018 01:12 EDT

West St. Paul crews battling ice-blocked culverts

Wild weather has workers in West St. Paul working overtime to clear culverts and ditches to prevent overland flooding of homes this spring, say officials with the rural municipality.

"We've been going 14 days straight in West St. Paul, 14 to 16 hours a day, trying to keep things good for the homeowners," said West St. Paul chief administrative officer, Brent Olynyk Monday.

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Two midwinter thaws this year have caused snow to melt and then freeze in low-lying areas like drainage culverts.

The first major thaw was in January followed by a freeze up, said CBC meteorologist John Sauder. The second thaw was in February and lasted about a week until a cold snap froze melt water.

Olynyk said public works and parks crews have teamed up to try and steam open blocked culverts, clear drains and break up ice dams along ditches in the municipality just north of Winnipeg.

"Those places that are still frozen and are hard to get to," he said.

Workers have had wade into waist-deep water to open up avenues for drainage. It can take a whole afternoon to steam open just one culvert.

"It's a tough job," Olynyk said. "I wish the Jets went as hard as our public works guys, maybe we'd be getting in the playoffs."

All it takes is a couple days of rain and a few blocked culverts, he said, to cause unpredictable overland flooding.

"It's a race against time. Once it gets backed up to a certain point it starts overflowing the banks and homeowners could be in trouble," he said.

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Olynyk said the wacky weather has had one silver lining: ice on farm fields has frozen perfectly for skating.

"Farmers are telling us their kids are skating in the fields and they haven't seen anything like it since the 1970s."