Communities ready, but not expecting major flooding in southern Manitoba
By Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
As Manitobans braced for the likelihood of more snowfall this week, the province warned additional precipitation could also lead to an increased possibility of flooding once that snow starts to melt, but despite those warnings some leaders in communities near the Red River say they are not expecting widespread flooding this spring.
On Monday, the province’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre announced they were monitoring a weather system that could bring 10 to 40 centimetres of snow and wind gusts of up to 60 kilometres per hour this week to portions of western, southwestern and central Manitoba, including the Parkland and Interlake regions, and west of Winnipeg to the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border.
The province added that run-off from the storm is not expected to start until the weekend, as temperatures in most areas will be below the freezing point until Friday, so communities might not start to see melting and increased water levels until this upcoming weekend.
“The centre reports that while most tributaries have already peaked or are near their peak within these impacted areas, flows and levels continue to rise in major rivers, including the Red and Assiniboine rivers,” the province said.
Even before this week’s forecast, the province had been warning of a major flood risk this spring along the Red River between Emerson and the Red River Floodway inlet.
One leader who saw his community hit hard by flooding last year says despite those warnings he continues to be optimistic they will be spared from widespread flooding and flood-related damages this spring.
Chris Ewen is the mayor of Ritchot, an RM southeast of Winnipeg that dealt with significant flooding last spring, which, according to Ewen, led to more than $2 million in damages in the community, and the evacuation of several homes.
But Ewen said so far the community doesn’t have any major concerns about the possible storm this week and the possibility of any major flooding this spring, although he added they are doing everything they can to be prepared for any scenario.
“We are always preparing, and our major flood emergency operations is now open and people can call if they need assistance, but we are not seeing what we saw last year just in terms of those water levels and river levels, so we are not overly concerned,” Ewen said.
“We did see significant flooding last year and we were prepared for it, so we believe we will be just as prepared and able to deal with what we see this year, but we don’t see it being as severe as last year.”
In the RM of Emerson-Franklin, near the Manitoba-U.S. border, Mayor Dave Carlson said he and other municipal officials are “cautiously optimistic” that the community will avoid widespread flooding this spring, even with the possibility of snow and additional precipitation this week.
“We are doing well this year,” Carlson said on Thursday. “The forecast as of today is for water to peak at around 2020 levels, which is about two feet lower than what we experienced last year, and we know that is something that is manageable.”
He said they expect the Red River to crest in Emerson-Franklin sometime between April 25 and May 5, but don’t believe there will be any major issues even when the water levels peak.
“It always depends on the weather, and we know things can change quickly, but we are feeling pretty good right now,” Carlson said.
The province said as they continue to monitor this week’s storm they will work to assist communities that could be affected by flooding.
The province also announced on Thursday that the Red River Floodway would begin operating on Thursday around 4:30 p.m., as there is currently a “minor risk” of flooding in the Winnipeg area.
Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for the Winnipeg Sun.
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