April showers could bring more than May flowers in Manitoba this spring, as a heavy snowpack elevates the potential risk of spring flooding in some areas
Manitoba’s flood forecasters say there is a risk of minor to moderate flooding in some areas of the province this spring, including along the Red River, the Souris and Assiniboine rivers, as well as in the Interlake region.
Although the actual 2013 flood forecast is still some weeks away, Manitoba’s minister of infrastructure and transportation (MIT) headed up a flood outlook at the province’s legislature last week.
“You really can’t be too prepared,” Minister Steve Ashton told reporters, emphasizing the determining factor this spring will be weather.
Describing the risk of spring flooding as less than in 2011 and greater than the risk experienced in 2012, he said how the snowpack melts will be a crucial factor in how the spring unfolds.
“An above-average snowpack with high moisture content in many parts of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North Dakota have increased the potential for flooding this year,” explained Manitoba’s senior flood forecaster, Phillip Mutulu.
But low soil moisture at freeze-up, along with decreased flow in many rivers, will help absorb the spring melt, said Mutulu, especially if it is a slow one, with sunny days and cold nights.
The exception to that is in northern Manitoba, where the forecaster said higher soil moisture will increase the likelihood of flooding, especially in agricultural areas around The Pas.
“I’ve been advised that the Pascua region in The Pas area could see significant flooding,” said Steve Topping of MIT’s water management division.
Running along the Carrot and Pascua rivers, that area encompasses 30,000 acres of arable land, but is largely protected by a dike system and drainage structure, he said.
Mutulu added there is also the potential for moderate flooding along the Souris River as a result of above-average over-winter precipitation south of the border.
With unfavourable weather conditions, communities along the Souris River could see flooding similar to that experienced in 2009.
Lakes will also be affected by spring run-off.
The Shoal Lakes are expected to rise less than one foot with favourable conditions and two feet if the weather turns wet. Lake Manitoba is expected to peak below the top of its operating range of 812.5 feet.
But if flooding on Lake Manitoba does become an issue, Ashton said the emergency outlet channel built for the lake system in 2011 and closed last fall, will be reopened.
“We’re in a much better situation than we were in 2011 in terms of Lake Manitoba,” said the minister.
Residents and farmers in the Lake Manitoba area have expressed concern over flooding in the region, and have formed the Lake Manitoba Flood Rehabilitation Committee in an effort to push for permanent solutions and obtain compensation for land affected by flooding in 2011.
“We’re still very much focused on the recovery,” said Ashton, adding that some areas of the province, including those around Lake Manitoba are still dealing with the effects of the 2011 flood.
He also noted that a low flood potential now, won’t mean much in the face of a late spring blizzard.
“A lot could change between now and the spring melt,” Mutulu added.