Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Flood risk up due to storm, late melt

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RECENT snowstorms and a delayed melt have increased the likelihood of flooding in southern Manitoba.

Experts now expect Highway 75 will be under water for a time this spring and community ring dikes along the Red River will have to be closed.

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Flooding along the Red is expected to be worse than in 2011 but not quite at the level of 2009.

Assiniboine River levels are projected to be far lower than two springs ago, with a peak in Brandon 10 to 12 feet lower than in 2011.

Similarly, Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin are not expected to balloon in size as they did in 2011, when flooding displaced thousands of Manitobans.

"We are a flood-prone province. We deal with this every year.

"We've been preparing for this year's flood and we'll ramp up our efforts as necessary for whatever comes forward," Doug McNeil, deputy minister of infrastructure and transportation, said Monday.

Flood officials are concerned about the size of this year's snowpack and the fact cooler-than-normal temperatures in the long-range forecast will delay the melt. The worry is there will be a rapid melt later on that would be exacerbated by normal spring rain.

"Staff are assessing the snowpack, how much has fallen, how much water content there is in the snow," McNeil said Monday. That information will be factored into the province's next flood outlook, which is expected early next week.

On Feb. 27, in the first report of the season, flood forecasters would or could not say whether Highway 75, a key link between Winnipeg and the U.S. border, would be closed this year.

At that time, officials said with unfavourable weather, the Red River between Emerson and Winnipeg could rise to 2011 levels. They also said moderate localized flooding could occur on such Red River tributaries as the LaSalle, Rat and Morris rivers.

Forecasters said Monday it is unlikely Manitoba will see the prolonged river flooding and high lake levels that occurred in 2011.

-- Larry Kusch

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 19, 2013 A3

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