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Snow over levels in '97 flood

Chance of more white stuff a wild card

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More snow has fallen so far this winter than in the winter leading up to the Flood of the Century in 1997.

Dale Marciski, an Environment Canada meteorologist based in Winnipeg, said up until Wednesday, 159.2 centimetres of snow had fallen on the city compared with 150.4 cm in the winter of 1996-97.

But Marciski said there is one element that happened in 1997 that remains an unknown factor this year.

"We had a lot of snow in April in 1997," he said.

"We had 211.4 cm of snow up until the end of April with 48.6 coming on April 4 to 7. We even had 2 cm in May."

Earlier this week, the province updated its flood-risk forecast, saying the recent snowstorms mean flooding along the Red River will be worse than in 2011, but not as bad as 2009. In 2011, the flood peaked at 20.7 feet above normal, while 2009 saw water levels of 22.6 feet.

The Red River crested at 24.5 feet in Winnipeg in 1997.

The province predicts Highway 75 will become inundated for a time and communities along the Red River will have to close their ring dikes.

As well, the province predicts the Assiniboine River will peak lower than two years ago when farmers living around Lake Manitoba saw their fields go under water and people in Twin Lakes Beaches lost their cottages to the lake.

Doug McNeil, the province's deputy minister of infrastructure and transportation, said earlier this week that "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."

Meanwhile, Marciski said the mercury is also running lower than normal so far in March.

"Last year, we had the warmest March ever and this year we are running well behind," he said. "We have been running more than five degrees below normal this month."

Marciski said the average temperature in March so far has been -11.5 C while the normal average temperature is -6.1 C.

But things are looking up temperature-wise starting today.

Environment Canada is forecasting temperatures will reach a high of -9 C today, followed by -5 C on Friday, -3 C on Saturday, -2 C on Sunday, -1 C on Monday, and 0 C on Tuesday.

If you're a skier, the recent weather is great. Not so much if you are a homeowner.

Roz Pulo, a spokeswoman for the Asessippi Ski Area and Resort near Russell, said this winter has been "a great ski season."

"It's amazing if you compare to last spring, we were forced to close a full two weeks early despite our practice of stockpiling snow. The conditions are amazing here right now, the cold temperatures really help keep the snow dry and fast."

But Pulo said based on their experience in the past, the ski resort will close March 31, snow or not.

"Once spring break ends, people don't seem to have skiing on their mind," she said.

Meanwhile, besides residents having to repeatedly shovel snow off sidewalks and driveways, Don Fata, co-owner of Pristine Roofing and Siding, said it has been a bad year for ice dams on the edges of Winnipeg roofs.

Fata said the cold winter temperatures, coupled with homeowners cranking up the thermostats without proper insulation in their roofs, can lead to water leakage inside.

"It has been an extremely busy year for us," he said. "All that snow will melt and then sit behind the ice and it will come in around nails.

"We've been doing a lot of snow removal and we have techniques to melt the ice off."

But Fata said if the roof needs repairing it will be a few weeks before crews can get to that.


Few signs of spring

throughout Canada

THE weather that greeted Canadians on the first day of spring is not the kind likely to put a spring in anyone's step.

The season officially began at 7:02 a.m. ET Wednesday with cold temperatures and flurries in parts of Ontario, snow in the Maritimes and Quebec, rain in B.C. and a chill across the Prairies.

Environment Canada anticipates colder-than-usual temperatures across Canada throughout March.

The weather office says the cold weather is due to an unstable airstream from Alaska and Russian Siberia.

Although Wednesday's high in Toronto is below the average high of 6 C for March 20, it's not as unusual as the record-setting 21.9 C temperature recorded on the same day last year.

Peter Kimbell, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, predicts the cold spell will last until at least Saturday and conditions will return to normal spring-like weather through April and May.

"While spring is officially here, Canadians can be forgiven for asking, 'Is it really here?' " Kimbell said. "There are very few people in the country who are comfortably enjoying spring today."


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2013 0

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