Manitoba flood forecasters have downgraded the size of the spring flood along the Red River.
At a flood briefing this morning, officials said a slow snowmelt and an absence of significant precipitation over the past two weeks has vastly improved the flood outlook. Further, with the dry soils in the Red River Valley now thawing, they are able to soak up a great deal of water.
Steve Ashton, the minister responsible for the province’s flood response, said officials are now expecting this spring’s flood to be on par with that of 2006 – and well below the floods in 2011 or 2009.
For an idea of what that means, consider that in 2006, Highway 75 at Morris had to be closed for 18 days while in 2009 it was closed for 36 days and in 2011 for 28 days.
Ashton said Manitobans may not have appreciated weeks of temperatures that barely nudged above freezing, but it was the best of circumstances for those who were preparing for flooding.
"Quite frankly, I don’t think you could have got better weather over the last couple of weeks for flood purposes," he told a news conference at the legislative building.
The improved flood forecast comes after officials with the U.S. National Weather Service substantially lowered their flood forecast for the Red south of the border this week.
On this side of the border, officials are now confident that Red River tributaries will have handled much of the snowmelt before a substantial amount of water arrives from the United States.
The Red River is expected to crest in Winnipeg around the third week in May.
Localized flooding is still expected to occur in small tributaries such as the LaSalle, Roseau, Rat and Morris rivers. Water levels north of Winnipeg are expected to be well below that in 2011.
With the operation of the Red River Floodway, Portage Diversion and Shellmouth Dam, the crest in downtown Winnipeg is forecast to be down slightly to 17.8 feet (James Avenue) under favourable weather conditions. With average conditions, it will crest at 18.75 feet and under unfavourable weather it will crest at 20.39 feet.
Projections for the Souris, Qu’Appelle, Assiniboine, Saskatchewan and Fisher rivers remain unchanged from the April 10 flood outlook, officials said. Lake level projections also remain unchanged.
Meanwhile the province announced this morning that the Manitoba Flood Forecasting Centre will now post daily flood forecasts and flood sheets on the provincial website. Flood liaison offices in Winnipeg, Brandon, Arborg and Morris will open on Saturday.
Up-to-date flood information can be found at www.manitoba.ca/flooding, on mobile devices at www.manitoba.ca, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBGov or at 1-866-626-4862.