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article imageOp-Ed: Moderate to major risk of flooding in Manitoba this spring

By Ken Hanly     Mar 26, 2013 in Environment
Winnipeg - The most recent Manitoba government flood prediction, released on Tuesday (March 26) says there is a moderate to major risk of flooding along a number of Manitoba rivers.
The official forecast is available here. The flooding risk has increased along the Red River that flows through Winnipeg and the Souris, Pembina, Saskatchewan, and Assiniboine rivers. A heavy March snowfall earlier in March and a snowpack with above average water content raise the risk of flooding.
Manitoba had severe flooding in 2011 but it is not likely flooding will reach those levels. However, Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said that they were not taking anything for granted. Ashton pointed out that the province as a whole had received 200 per cent of the normal amount of precipitation over the winter. Ashton thinks that a number of communities may need to be evacuated.“Nobody is pressing any panic buttons. We’re going to do whatever we can.”
In both the city of Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie, there are diversions that can be opened to help prevent flooding. Steve Topping, who works with the provincial water management division said that both diversions would be opened no matter what the weather in the next few weeks. Topping said:“We utilize the Portage Diversion to manage ice levels east of Portage,”
We have had a very cold March and so there has been little or no melting as yet. If we have a rapid melt, as might happen if the temperature suddenly climbs much above freezing, Topping said there would be a high potential for ice jams. When there are ice jams, rivers flood over banks behind the jams causing extensive flooding of farm land or anything near the banks.
Topping said that Lake Manitoba will be 1.2 metres below the 2011 level and larger Lake Winnipeg will be 0.6 metres below that level. However, Red Deer lake could see record flooding this year.
Some communities along the Red River are already sandbagging and buying flood-prevention equipment. Flood warnings have been issued for communities along the Souris River in North Dakota US. The Souris flows from Saskatchewan through North Dakota including the city of Minot and then back into Manitoba where it flows through Brandon and then on to Winnipeg where it joins the Red River which flows north from the US.
South of Winnipeg, the main highway, number 75, to the US is sometimes closed during floods.
During a flood in 2009, Highway 75 was closed for 36 days. Terry Shaw, general manager of the Manitoba Trucking Association said that long detours cost the industry about $1.5 million a weak in extra costs.
What happens in terms of flooding all depends upon the weather. If we have more snow or rain as the melting happens things will be worse. If we have a very rapid melt the situation could be much worse.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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