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Roche Percee succumbs to flood waters

As one of Saskatchewan's oldest communities, Roche Percee has seen its share of highs and lows since its formation over 100 years ago.

As one of Saskatchewan's oldest communities, Roche Percee has seen its share of highs and lows since its formation over 100 years ago.

However, the village has likely never quite faced a challenge of this magnitude as floodwaters from the Souris River have inundated the quiet community and forced the evacuation of most of its residents.

After dodging the bullet during the first three floods, Roche Percee succumbed to the fourth, and largest, onslaught of water over the weekend. Mayor Reg Jahn said it became obvious to village officials on Friday that with water flows expected to top 400 cubic metres per second, Roche Percee was going to flood. That realization set in motion a plan to evacuate the village's roughly 200 residents.

"The (village's) dikes have a carrying capacity of probably 240 m3/s to 280 m3/s so when they started talking over 300 m3/s we were done," said Jahn. "At that time we told everybody that they would have to move."

Jahn said their worst fears were realized Sunday morning when the water went over the dikes and flooded the village inside of an hour.

"This is by far the worst flood (in the village's history)," Jahn said.

Of the villages 200 residents, Jahn said the 25 to 30 who live on higher ground have stayed in the community. The remainder have gone to stay with family or went to one of the shelters located in Estevan at the Souris Valley Aquatic and Leisure Centre or the Coalfields Memorial Arena in Bienfait.

Although they are doing their best to make the best of this situation, Jahn said many are frustrated after living for eight weeks on "pins and needles."

"The first flood, it wasn't bad, it would have put about four inches of water on main street," said Jahn who noted that a number of homes have suffered damage and two to three are likely total losses. There is fear that number could increase significantly though. "Flood two was the worst one until this time. People would move their stuff into the basement when the threat went away and then they would move it back out. There are people in Roche Percee that I have been really scared are going to have a stroke or a heart attack."

Despite their frustrations and the heartbreak of losing their homes, Jahn said many have vowed to return to Roche Percee and rebuild.

"The older people of course, we don't have a lot of time to rebuild," he said. "The younger people they said 'ya, we'll be back.' There is still no greater place than living along the river and we haven't had a flood for 30 years. That is their attitude. They are not ready to give up on the community and it has drawn closer since all of this started."

Jahn added that he was in Estevan Monday morning for a meeting with Premier Brad Wall and said he came away encouraged that the province will be behind Roche Percee when it comes time to rebuild.

"There is two to three who have lost their houses and they'll be refunded enough money that they will be able to remodel or rebuild. (Wall) tossed out a figure of $60 to 70 million and I said main street (in Roche Percee) will take 10 per cent of that, thank you. I was down there Monday morning trying to figure out how much is this going to cost and you start to look in today's dollars, some of the people that just built new homes down there, they have a quarter of a million into that house. You start looking at that, she's $6 million. And infrastructure, when we were holding out the flood, just to rebuild what we were losing, we were somewhere at the $150,000 mark. We are somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million."

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