Red River Valley Poises For Spring Flood

“It’s a big enough flood to cause havoc with a lot of people in the valley.”

– ALF WARKENTIN

There’s bad news and good news for residents of Manitoba’s flood-prone Red River Valley this year.

The bad news is there’ll be another spring flood. The good news is it won’t be nearly as severe as other recent floods.

Manitoba Water Stewardship predicts spring flood waters in the valley will be at 2006 levels, but well below levels seen in 2009 and nowhere near as high as in the record 1997 Flood of the Century.

But it’ll be enough to cause disruption, the province predicted in its first flood forecast for 2010.

“It’s a big enough flood to cause havoc with a lot of people in the valley – access and transportation issues,” said provincial flood forecaster Alf Warkentin during a March 18 briefing.

Officials expect thousands of acres of valley farmland will be under water and Highway 75 at Morris will be closed for up to 12 days.

The government promised a “hydraulic assessment” of the Red River north of Morris to improve flood protection of Highway 75, which is periodically closed during spring flooding. That could include diverting the Morris River, which empties into the Red north of town, or raising bridges.

Much of the winter snow in Manitoba has vanished from an early-spring melt. Warm, dry weather has “taken the steam out of the snowpack and there’s not a whole lot of it left in Manitoba,” Warkentin said.

But it’s a different story on the U. S. side of the international border. There, heavier snowfall this winter in the upper Red River watershed, along with 25 to 30 mm of rain over a three-day period two weeks ago has added to the run-off.

“As a result, the flood potential on the Red River hasn’t subsided, whereas everywhere else it has subsided,” said Warkentin.

“There is so much water coming from the U. S. side that we’re still going to have a flood.”

Fortunately, the thaw is so advanced in Manitoba that the Red’s tributaries north of the border are already receding, which will help mitigate flooding here, Warkentin added.

“We are going to get rid of a lot of our water before the U. S. water gets here this year.”

Water Stewardship expects the Red to crest at Emerson by March 31 or April 1. The river should peak in Winnipeg around April 6, two weeks earlier than usual.

Warkentin warned valley residents aren’t out of the words yet because heavy rain in April could still trigger a second crest.

“We need two weeks of good weather to get through this without having the flood get bigger than 2006.”

The flood potential for the rest of Manitoba is minor to moderate, except along the Souris River. Officials expect some flooding of low-lying land in the southwest corner of the province because of high soil moisture and above-normal snow cover in North Dakota.

But an “unfavourable weather scenario” could create extensive flooding along the Assiniboine and Pembina rivers, the province said in a news release.

Unfavourable weather could also create significant flooding in the Interlake, although the forecast at present is for minimal flooding.

Run-off in northern Manitoba is expected to be below average and flooding is unlikely. [email protected]

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