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Another winter blast on the way

Parts of province could get up to 40 cm of snow today

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Oh, we are so totally going to pay for the relatively balmy weather of last week.

An enormous amount of snow is going to fall on Manitoba, North Dakota and Saskatchewan by this evening, snow that will eventually melt into the Red and Assiniboine rivers.

That's not great news for a flood-prone region, but it's also not reason to panic -- at least not yet.

"A one-off event early on, we sit and wait and see what happens," Jay Doering, University of Manitoba dean of graduate studies and a civil engineer with flood expertise, said Sunday.

The province's recent first flood forecast of minor to moderate prospects of flooding took into account average snow and rain in March and April, Doering pointed out.

"It's kind of early" to conclude the snow falling today will lead to flooding, he said. "The mitigating factor is it's sitting on dry soil."

Government forecasters in Canada and the U.S. say communities along the Assiniboine could get 25 to 40 centimetres, while along the Red it will range from 25 to 33 centimetres.

When the Assiniboine suffered severe flooding in 2011, Doering said, "The real trigger for the Assiniboine River event was the late rainfall in late April and early May."

One provincial official would only say Sunday, "We can't speculate on this now, but the impact of the accumulation will be considered in the next flood outlook."

Another provincial official said it is unlikely the province will have anything substantive to say before the second flood forecast at the end of March.

"Any precipitation between now and then in Manitoba, the northern U.S. impacting the Red and Souris River systems, and Saskatchewan, will be a factor in the next set of calculations," said the second provincial official.

Environment Canada expected Winnipeg to get two centimetres of snow overnight, with another five to -- brace yourself -- 10 centimetres today.

Say goodbye to those bare streets and occasional flashes of bare sidewalk -- we won't see them again for a while.

But it will be worse elsewhere, far worse.

The federal weather agency forecast up to 10 centimetres for Brandon overnight, and another 10 to 15 centimetres today.

That same up-to-25 forecast is on Environment Canada's forecast for Souris, no stranger to flooding problems.

Fortunately, further upriver, eastern Saskatchewan was looking at only up to eight centimetres total.

But don't sigh in relief so fast.

Along the Red River, Emerson and Morris could be getting a total of 25 centimetres.

The United States National Weather Service predicts Grand Forks could receive six to 13 inches of new snow by the time it stops this evening -- for those younger readers, that's 15 to 33 centimetres.

The forecast for Fargo is only slightly less drastic -- around 28 centimetres of snow. But in Minot, which suffered severe flooding two years ago as the swollen Assiniboine curved and bent between Saskatchewan and Souris, there could be as much as 40 centimetres of fresh snow.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 4, 2013 A3

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