The snowbanks are high and the frozen soils are saturated south of the border, spelling potential flood grief for Manitobans this spring.

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This article was published 18/1/2011 (3976 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A team bus crawls along a flooded section of the I-29 highway north of Grand Forks in March 2009. U.S. forecasters said Tuesday there’s a 50 per cent chance the flooding there will reach similar levels this spring.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

A team bus crawls along a flooded section of the I-29 highway north of Grand Forks in March 2009. U.S. forecasters said Tuesday there’s a 50 per cent chance the flooding there will reach similar levels this spring.

The snowbanks are high and the frozen soils are saturated south of the border, spelling potential flood grief for Manitobans this spring.

In its latest flood outlook, the U.S. National Weather Service said Tuesday there is a 20 per cent chance that the Red River at Fargo will surpass the record crest set there in 2009. And at Pembina, N.D., near the Manitoba border, it calculated there was a 70 per cent likelihood of a 2009-like flood.

That year, the crest on the Red at most points in Manitoba was the second-highest since 1852, exceeded only by 1997's Flood of the Century.

Fargo has already received 40 centimetres more snow than it normally gets in an entire winter, and other parts of North Dakota and neighbouring Minnesota that drain into the Red have also received mountains of snow.

Steve Topping, a senior official with Manitoba Water Stewardship, said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday the latest U.S. outlook "definitely confirms" the potential for serious flooding in southern Manitoba.

"I'll admit the flood potential is very high for the Assiniboine and the Red River basins," he said from Fargo, where he is attending, appropriately enough, an international conference on Red River basin flooding.

Topping said the Manitoba government will release its first spring flood forecast of the year at a news conference on Monday, incorporating the new U.S. data.

"We have much more work to do," he said.

Premier Greg Selinger will participate in next week's press conference, a government spokeswoman said Tuesday.

A U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist pilots a small boat past flooded homes in Moorhead, Minn., during the area’s record flooding of 2009.

ELAINE THOMPSON / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

A U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist pilots a small boat past flooded homes in Moorhead, Minn., during the area’s record flooding of 2009.

Manitoba officials have been well aware of the potential for significant spring flooding for several months. Soils are saturated from heavy 2010 rains that have caused rivers to swell and freeze at abnormally high levels.

This winter, considerably more snow than normal has fallen on both sides of the border.

Natalie Hasell, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said Tuesday that Winnipeg has received 95.4 cm of the white stuff to date. The average city snowfall between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31 is 69.3 cm. Brandon has received 103.6 cm of snow so far this winter.

South of the border the situation has been worse. There, the Red River and Devils Lake basins are poised to receive twice their average annual snowfall by winter's end.

The National Weather Service said that the Red is almost certain to surpass the "major" flood stage in Fargo-Moorhead. In December, it calculated those odds at less than 60 per cent.

In addition to higher-than-expected snowfall this winter, U.S. forecasters are now predicting a wet spring for the region.

Topping said Monday's provincial forecast will assess the likelihood of flooding for several Manitoba rivers in addition to the Red. He said his department recently briefed municipal leaders on what the province was expecting as of early January.

"From this point on, Manitoba will mount the appropriate level of effort to fight this flood," the Water Stewardship official vowed.

Earlier this month, the province added a third Amphibex ice-breaking machine to its flood-fighting arsenal at a cost of $1.2 million. It will be used to prevent river ice jams from forming in spring.

 

-- With files from the Grand Forks Herald

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

The bad news south of the border:

 

At Pembina, N.D., near the Manitoba border, there's a 70 per cent chance of a flood as severe as the major flood of 2009 and a 20 per cent probability of breaking the record crest set in 1997.

 

Residents in the Grand Forks area stand a 50 per cent chance of experiencing 2009-like flooding, while in Fargo, there's a 20 per cent chance the Red River will surpass the record crest set two years ago.

 

Fargo has already had 141.7 centimetres of snow this winter, or 40 cm more than it normally gets in an entire winter. The situation is similar in west-central Minnesota, southeastern North Dakota and portions of northeastern North Dakota.

 

-- Many of these same areas received 50 per cent more rain than normal last summer and fall, so lakes, rivers and streams south of the border froze at record high seasonal levels.

 

-- Source: U.S. National Weather Service

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.