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Tremendous volunteer effort saves Benson

After coming within minutes of potentially losing their town, officials in Benson were finally able to relax for a few minutes Monday.
As many as 52 trucks were part of the effort to pump water out of Benson last week.

After coming within minutes of potentially losing their town, officials in Benson were finally able to relax for a few minutes Monday.

Benson was inundated with floodwaters last week from a stream that starts in what has been described as the Fillmore flats and runs all the way to Lampman. After threatening the community for weeks, the water came into town after a heavy rainfall caused the already raging stream to swell even further.

David Hoffort, the reeve of the RM of Benson, said the situation reached a critical point early last week when water began going over a berm on the north side of town and poured into the community.

"We were very close to not having this town," said Hoffort. "We probably were within a half-hour. Our local contractor Svein Bryeide, he got in the middle (of the berm) with his track hoe, where I sure as hell wouldn't have went, and he bermed that up about four feet and cut (the water) off. We did lose one house but there would have been a lot more. The church would have been in the water and all of the houses on the lower end would have been in the water. We had another break after that but everything seems to be OK."

Although the atmosphere was understandably tense in Benson last week, all involved were breathing a little easier on Monday as the situation is now under control. RM administrator Laureen Keating said they are ready if the situation takes a turn for the worse but they are hopeful that is behind them.

"All the semis have been released. We have three pumps left here and I think we only have one going at the present time," she said. "We are ready if something happens and we have everybody on standby if we need them at a later date. All the sandbagging is done in town, the dikes are done; they had to put in another culvert and everything is good. It's nice to be able to say that."

Keating noted that last Wednesday is when what had been a manageable situation in Benson began spiralling. After going over the berm, water began pouring into the area along Highway 47 and reached as far as the entrance to town.

"On Thursday we felt we were under control, we were handling the water that was going through. Then more water came than what we were expecting so we had another kind of upset, so we did more sandbagging."

Keating was quick to credit the incredible support of an army of volunteers with helping keep the situation in Benson from escalating to an unmanageable level. She said whether it was pumps, trucks, food or sandbaggers, dozens of people rose to help Benson during its time of need.

"Everyone came on the spur of the moment to help us out," she said. "We needed flaggers on the highway, people to put up the sandbags. We had people going to Lampman to help make the sandbags. We had people bringing in food and helping to serve all the people that were here. The support was just tremendous.

"The oil companies sent people and equipment. The phone was ringing all the time (with people asking) do you need this, do you need that?"

Hoffort noted at the peak 52 trucks were lined up on Highway 47 alongside Benson pumping water from the flooded area of the town over the highway to an open field.

"I would like to express our sincere thanks to everybody," Hoffort said. "The businesses, the neighboring communities, rural residents everybody. I just can't express our gratitude for what we received."

As for the rest of the RM of Benson, Hoffort admitted their roads are in rough shape.

"I told the one guy that phoned me, 'we have one north-south road and one east-west that isn't under water. The north-south is the highway and the east-west road is the 361 and the 702 that heads over to Midale.' If you are going into our RM, you're going to have to jig-jag around but nobody is hurt and after last week we are just pretty thankful for everything."