The Red River Floodway will be thrown into operation today as the Red continues to rise south of Winnipeg and rain in the forecast will add even more runoff to the province's swelling rivers.
North of Winnipeg, a huge ice jam at Selkirk -- responsible for flooding out one house -- refuses to budge and many sandbaggers and dike-builders are working around the clock to prepare for what's coming.
The flooding of the house St. Andrews came despite the efforts of flood-fighters to protect it at the last minute, and brought a strong warning from the province that anyone at risk of flooding has to act now to protect their property.
"I'm hoping citizens will take full responsibility for protecting themselves and their property," said Chuck Sanderson, executive director of Manitoba EMO. "Do not procrastinate in doing the things you need to do in order to keep yourself and your property safe. Do not put yourself and first responders at risk and do not jeopardize your ability to receive disaster financial assistance."
Homeowners who do not protect their properties, despite being advised by the province or municipal officials, jeopardize losing disaster financial assistance, Sanderson added.
As of Friday afternoon, the Red River hovered around 19.8 feet above normal winter ice level at James Avenue, which was down one foot from an ice-jam-induced peak of 20.8 feet James on Thursday evening.
The Red River was completely free of solid ice and ice jams within city limits on Friday, said Grant Mohr, the city's flood-protection engineer.
Red River Floodway
The gates of the floodway at the St. Norbert control structure will slowly start to rise at 9 a.m. to send more water into the floodway channel.
A half-hour earlier, a siren will sound to warn people upstream of the gates being activated, but most will already know through an email alert system the province set up over the past two years. The floodway control structure bridge and access road between Turnbull Drive and St. Mary's Road is now closed.
"The gradual raising of the gates is designed to protect the City of Winnipeg while holding water south of the floodway inlet to natural levels," executive director of Manitoba Water Stewardship Steve Topping said.
Premier Greg Selinger said the floodway will operate under Rule 1 in that its activation won't raise river levels south of the floodway gates.
"It can't operate to the detriment of the upstream communities at this stage," Selinger said.
Fargo prepares for crest
Flood-protection efforts in Fargo-Moorhead wrapped up early Friday as the largest U.S. metropolitan area in the Red River Valley prepared for the river to crest.
The U.S. National Weather Service expects the Red River to crest Sunday between 39 and 40 feet. Heavy rains expected in the upper Red River drainage basin will likely prolong the crest but won't drive it higher.
"If significant rainfall does occur in the next several days, then high-water stages will likely be maintained for a longer period of time," the weather service said in a statement.
The city has beefed up its dikes to protect against a 42-foot crest. The record crest in Fargo, set in 2009, was 40.84 feet.
Selinger and the governors
Premier Selinger spoke via phone Friday with North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton about the flood situation in their states.
"They're optimistic they're going to be OK, that the preparations they've done are adequate," Selinger said. "They're thinking about 2009 level and maybe a little higher."
The flood's crest is expected in Fargo-Moorhead this weekend. The crest is expected to hit Winnipeg in the last week of April or first few days of May.
Selinger said provincial and U.S. officials have worked closely over the past several months preparing for the flood. "Everybody, quite frankly, is seized with their own situation."
He added Minnesota officials are managing the flow of the Roseau River to ease pressure on the amount of water coming north into Manitoba and the Red River.
Rain in forecast
Topping said 10 to 20 millimetres of rain are expected to fall over the Red River basin over the weekend. Up to 30 mm of rain are forecast to fall in localized areas of the Souris River basin. The impact of the precipitation will add to river-flow levels. Looking ahead, warmer temperatures will increase the rate of the snowmelt, also adding to river flows.
Manitoba highways information manager Neil Gobelle said Highway 75 will close at Morris as early as this weekend depending on how quickly the Red and Morris rivers rise. Detours are already planned and will be marked out when the highway closes. More information about highway closures and conditions around the province is at www.gov.mb.ca/mit/roadinfo
The detours add about 75 kilometres around Morris. Highway 59 will remain open.
Topping said it's just a precautionary measure, but health officials say people living in flood-prone areas, who have their own wells should boil drinking water. The province will also offer and cover the cost of water testing once the flood threat passes.
More information www.manitoba.ca/flooding
THE City of Winnipeg has issued another call for volunteers to help build sandbag dikes around the first batch of low-lying properties in Winnipeg.
As of Friday afternoon, sandbag dikes were underway or complete at roughly 75 of the 110 properties whose owners have been advised to build dikes by the end of the weekend. Approximately 250,000 sandbags had been delivered, said Scott Payne, flood co-ordinator with the city's public works department.
Although more than 1,125 volunteers have registered, the city needs more this weekend because more owners of the low-lying properties are now available to receive sandbag deliveries and ready to build their dikes. Emergency preparedness co-ordinator Randy Hull issued another plea for more volunteers to call and register.
Volunteers are asked to call 311 and register, rather than proceed directly to specific properties to allow the city's dike operations centre to triage the highest-priority properties, Hull said.
The city is also co-ordinating services such as busing in volunteers and providing porta-potties and refreshments, Hull said.