While it might be warmer this winter than last, higher average temperatures haven’t resulted in less ice on Manitoba waterways.
Darrell Kupchik, director of operations for North Red Waterway Maintenance, said areas that only had 14 inches of ice in 2014 now have 24 inches.
“Last year is kind of the year that sticks in everyone’s memory, being so cold with so much snow. With the extreme cold we thought that it would be a factor that would give us heavy ice last year, but surprisingly with that heavy snow blanket, we actually saw thinner ice conditions,” said Kupchik.
In addition to providing an insulating layer, last winter’s heavier snowpack also pushed ice downwards, fracturing the surface while also reducing the ice’s thickness.
Not so this winter, Kupchik said.
“We just haven’t had the snowfall we had last year, so we didn’t get that insulating blanket of snow… and ice thickness has increased because of that,” he said.
Ice cutting began on the Red River in early February, and Amphibexes began breaking ice this week between Netley Creek and Netley Lake in an effort to reduce the risk of ice jamming and flooding during the spring melt.
Cutting and breaking equipment will then begin to move towards the City of Selkirk. Once that community is reached, the equipment will be deployed to other areas of the province.
“Once we’re done on the Red River we’ll pull the equipment out and go to other areas in Manitoba that are at risk of ice-jam flooding, or locations where ice can be an issue, such as the Portage Diversion,” said Kupchik. “Then we’ll do some cutting and breaking of the 48-inch-thick ice on Lake Manitoba, right at the outlet.”
The Whitemud and Assiniboine rivers are usually next in line. In previous years the director of operations said ice has been cut and broken on the Brokenhead, Fisher, Carrot and Icelandic rivers, as well.
“We go wherever there is a need for us,” he said, reminding people to heed any warning signs in the areas where work is occurring, or where ice has been cut or broken.
Provincial officials also remind any ice fishers to remove huts from areas covered by the ice-mitigation program.
As for whether or not thicker ice will mean a greater risk of ice jamming and related flooding this spring, Kupchik said it is too early to tell. He noted that a lot can happen over the next couple of months, and that one storm could change everything.
Whether or not there is a rapid melt will also affect the situation.
“It’s still awfully early for us to make any predictions on how things are going to play out for us this spring, so we’ll just do what we have to do and get that ice broken,” he said.