Manitobans drying out, cleaning up after wild, wet and cold weekend
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Storm-weary Manitobans should stay on high alert for spring flooding after basements and roads were inundated over the weekend, as heavy rain is possible again starting Thursday.
With river levels on the rise and communities still grappling with overland flooding, forecasters are watching two systems — an Alberta low and yet another Colorado low — which could hit back to back later this week.
“Any amount of precipitation will just complicate the situation further,” said Natalie Hasell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada.
The Alberta low is predicted to hit Thursday as daytime temperatures climb to almost 10 C, while the Colorado system could impact Manitoba from Friday through the weekend.
Hasell said on Monday it was too soon to predict the path of the storms or potential rainfall amounts due to uncertainty in weather models.
Scott Kehler, president and chief scientist of Weatherlogics, said some models show as much as 50 millimetres of precipitation and others show the Colorado low missing Manitoba.
Even if the latter scenario happens, heavy rain is still likely to fall across North Dakota and Minnesota basins, which flow north.
“Rivers are high, and any additional precipitation could push them to levels of concern,” said Kehler.
The province issued a flood warning Sunday for the Red River Valley from Emerson to the floodway inlet just south of Winnipeg. Parts of southern Manitoba and the Whiteshell are under a flood watch.
After managing the latest storm, the Rural Municipality of Morris is preparing for significant flooding from the Red River and its tributaries.
Most properties have flood-protection measures, but a lot of roads will be under water if the river rises a further 12 ft. as predicted, said Reeve Ralph Groening, who is hoping for as little rain as possible.
“We’re watching the forecast very closely. This is still a time to be vigilant, and we are.” – Ralph Groening
“We’re watching the forecast very closely. This is still a time to be vigilant, and we are,” he said.
An overland flood warning for much of southern Manitoba was extended to midday Tuesday, after the weekend storm.
It came about a week after a Colorado low dumped more than 30 cm of snow in Winnipeg and as much as 82 cm in Onanole, about 90 kilometres north of Brandon.
The combined systems, along with previous snow melt and still-frozen ground, contributed to considerable flooding in places such as the Rural Municipality of Headingley, which declared a local state of emergency after basements were inundated.
Dodds Road resident Rob Ozerkevich laid more than 60 ft. of sandbags before the storm. When it struck, he and his neighbour ran as many as six sump pumps simultaneously, he said.
“Since four-o’clock Saturday morning, I’ve managed to get four hours sleep,” he said.
Despite their efforts, standing water surrounded his home’s foundation for more than 40 hours, eventually seeping into the basement.
Still, things could be worse, he said.
“We do have some damage down there, but I was expecting shoulder height water,” he said.
Ozerkevich estimates around 50 people worked throughout the day and late into Sunday night to set up pumps and sandbag homes.
Nicole Vechina spent much of Sunday fighting floodwater that spilled into her front yard of her Dodds Road property.
“We had four pumps going. It was kind of scary to see it come up that high… you just don’t know how bad it’s going to get,” said Vechina, whose home did not flood.
“We had four pumps going. It was kind of scary to see it come up that high… you just don’t know how bad it’s going to get.” – Nicole Vechina
Flooding also caused problems in the Rural Municipality of East St. Paul, where officials are bracing for more rain by filling sandbags, preparing pumps and putting staff on standby.
“The forecast is not promising,” said emergency co-ordinator Dennis Wiwcharyk, who urged people to stay away from floodwater.
Since Friday, the City of Winnipeg’s 311 services has received more than 410 calls about flooded basements, and more than 690 about flooded streets or ditches, a spokesman said.
About 30,000 sandbags have been distributed by the city.
Environment Canada said the highest reported precipitation total was 76.6 mm in Altona, followed by 71.3 in Gretna and 70.5 at The Forks in Winnipeg.
Kehler said it was the capital’s second-largest April rain storm on record, with about 50 mm falling at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.
“We’re dealing with a highly unusual April in terms of precipitation,” said Kehler.
The city averages 30 mm of precipitation in April. Hasell said the weather station at the airport, which is used for record keeping, has reported 73.2 mm of precipitation this month.
Winnipeg’s seasonal snowfall total climbed to 215 cm with an additional 3 cm Sunday, making it the city’s third snowiest on record since 1872, retired Environment Canada meteorologist Rob Paola wrote on Twitter.
About 13,000 Manitoba Hydro customers were without power at Monday’s peak. The number was down to about 6,400 by 5 p.m.
“We’re dealing with a highly unusual April in terms of precipitation.” – Scott Kehler
Ice on power lines and broken poles contributed to outages, with the worst damage in southwestern Manitoba up to the Parkland region and east to the Interlake. Some customers in the Dauphin area could be without power until Thursday, Hydro wrote on Twitter.
Bonny Johanneson, who lives in Rorketon, northeast of Dauphin, had been without power since 5 p.m. Saturday. She was using a gas generator to keep the lights on and a wood stove to stay warm.
“We’re out in the country, so you have to make sure you have stuff like that,” she said.
Ian Brownell, who owns Ground Down Foundation Repair, was swamped with dozens of calls for help from Winnipeggers whose basements flooded.
“Before the weekend, I was booked up about six or seven weeks ahead, and now I’m into August and September,” he said.
Property insurance providers were also fielding calls from customers.
However, standard home insurance policies generally do not include overland flood coverage, said Rob de Pruis, national director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
“It is available, but it is a separate endorsement as an add-on,” he said.
De Pruis said people living in areas at higher risk of flooding may be ineligible or may receive limited coverage.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.