Flood forecaster led province through many rough waters

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Alf Warkentin, who led Manitoba through at least 10 major floods, has died at 77 after a battle with cancer.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/06/2019 (1262 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Alf Warkentin, who led Manitoba through at least 10 major floods, has died at 77 after a battle with cancer.

Warkentin was the province’s first flood forecaster, a position he famously persuaded the water resources branch it needed.

He was hired as Manitoba’s first “hydro meteorologist,” which soon led to his position as flood forecaster.

Alf Warkentin

Warkentin held the job for 41 years, before retiring in 2010. He worked as a consultant after retirement, but gave that up after his cancer diagnosis.

There may be no one who knew more about the highs and lows of the Red River than Warkentin. He once recalled to the Free Press witnessing the bursting river during the 1950 flood, as a nine-year-old standing atop the old Norwood Bridge.

“It was a pretty rough river,” he said. “I saw outhouses and I saw some remnants of garages, and they would typically hit the bridge and then get smashed and get pulled under.”

In university, he studied math and physics, and dabbled in a few other areas: he spent a year teaching school, three more as a meteorologist with Environment Canada and a winter in Churchill supporting NASA’s rocket range research program.

During his tenure guiding Manitoba through some of its most significant floods, Warkentin became a near-household name.

A year before he retired, Warkentin told the Free Press he still liked the work, but could do without all the stress that comes with dealing with a major flood.

The same year, North Dakota-based flood expert Mark Ewens told the Free Press he had been trading information with Warkentin for decades.

“I just wonder who is going to be filling his shoes,” Ewens said. “It’s going to be quite the chore.”

caitlyn.gowriluk@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Saturday, June 22, 2019 12:26 PM CDT: Fixes formatting in headline

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