Coronavirus: Winnipeggers sandbag elderly couple’s property while maintaining distancing

A Winnipeg city councillor and a group of volunteers attempted to help sandbag a property along the Red River in St. Norbert on Thursday, while maintaining physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coun. Markus Chambers assembled dozens of volunteer sandbaggers to assist an elderly couple in his ward in erecting a dike ahead of potential strong flooding.

“Winnipeggers have come out in good numbers to help support a local resident,” Chambers said.

“Couldn’t be prouder of my city.”

At times, it appeared many of the volunteers were getting closer to each other than recommended by public health officials.

Chambers said all necessary and proper precautions were put in place to ensure current social distancing protocols are observed.

“We call for individuals that are symptom free that have no cold or flu like symptoms,” Cambers said.

“Everybody is wearing gloves and are using masks and scarves and we’re just going to try to work as efficiently as we can knowing that social distancing is part of the requirements.”

Volunteer Samantha Higham Thursday’s sandbagging event was different than the last time she was preparing for spring flooding.

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“In the past I know we have been quite close,” she said.

“The big thing was you stand shoulder-to-shoulder and you pass the bag kind of arm-to-arm. Now we’re trying to maintain some distance which does make it more difficult.”

Higham said she felt it was important to help somebody in need.

Bob Roehle, the owner of the property, said he appreciates everyone who came out.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Roehle said.

“First time having to contend with the Red River and a pandemic.”

The City of Winnipeg said 41 property owners will need dikes to protect from river flooding, and another 16 remain at risk of flooding this spring.

As of Thursday morning, the City of Winnipeg tracked the Red River’s water levels at 16.92 feet above the main James Avenue river gauge, but 23.74 feet by the St. Norbert Community Centre.

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