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Heavy snow across the border forces province to revise flood forecast along Red

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/3/2019 (513 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Recent heavy snows in the northern United States have caused the provincial government to upgrade the expected severity of this spring's flood along the Red River.

On Monday, the Hydrologic Forecast Centre issued a bulletin saying it now forecasts a flood "of a magnitude higher than in 2009," with normal or average weather conditions.

The flood of 2009 was the fourth highest along the Red since 1826 and largest since 1997's Flood of the Century. In 2009, 1,000 square kilometres of land flooded in the Red River Valley between Winnipeg and Emerson. Highway 75 was closed at Morris for 37 days (April 7 to May 13).

In its Feb. 28 flood forecast, the province predicted a flood along the Red comparable to 2011 — which was best remembered for flooding along the Assiniboine River. Next to the 1997 and 2009 floods, however, 2011 was the third largest Red River flood in a half-century.

Barry Penner takes a boat into the town of Morris, MB. in 2009 because of flooding of the Red River. Morris was protected by a high ring dike causing Highway 75 to stay closed at Morris for 37 days

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Barry Penner takes a boat into the town of Morris, MB. in 2009 because of flooding of the Red River. Morris was protected by a high ring dike causing Highway 75 to stay closed at Morris for 37 days

With favourable weather from here on out, the Red could still rise to 2011 levels. However, with unfavourable weather, water levels will be higher than 2009 levels by almost one foot at Emerson, by 1.5 feet at Ste. Agathe and reach 22 feet at James Avenue in Winnipeg.

The province said floodwater levels will depend on the rate of snow melt and the amount of precipitation in the coming weeks. It said it would issue a fully updated flood outlook in the coming days.

Monday's bulletin follows an updated flood forecast on Friday by the U.S. National Weather Service.

That forecast took into account large storms in the Red River watershed south of the border on March 9 and 14.

Greg Gust, warning co-ordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, said the U.S. storms "undoubtedly" contributed to the revised Manitoba flood forecast.

"We've bumped up the flow projections on the Red River on the U.S. side of the border," he said by telephone Monday.

Currently, U.S. officials say there's a 50 per cent chance that the Red River at Pembina will be a quarter-foot above 2009 levels. That would still put it at a little more than two feet below the 1997 mark.

Future weather and the speed of the snow melt are expected to significantly affect the severity of the flood, Gust said. "This week is running pretty well for us (weather-wise)," he said, "but next week, there's a little bit more unsettled weather."

The Assiniboine River system will see "limited flooding," the province said Monday, so the focus, for now, is on the Red and its tributaries.

The province said it is working with municipalities on local preparations, including support for evacuations if needed. It said it is also working with Ottawa to ensure the safety of Indigenous communities in the Red River Valley.

The government said it's assembling teams to work with farmers to move livestock out of impacted areas.

And it's preparing for road closures and closures of community ring dikes. Community ring dikes and the majority of individual flood protection works along the Red are at 1997 water levels plus two feet (61cm).

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

A house just north of Morris, Man. is isolated by floodwater in 2009. Heavy snowfall in the United States has raised the threat of flooding in Manitoba's Red River Valley this spring.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

A house just north of Morris, Man. is isolated by floodwater in 2009. Heavy snowfall in the United States has raised the threat of flooding in Manitoba's Red River Valley this spring.

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.

Read full biography

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