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Manitoba government says Red River flooding risk worsens

April 18, 2013, Winnipeg – The long winter that has drifted into spring has intensified the flood risk in Manitoba's Red River Valley.

April 18, 2013
By The Canadian Press

April 18, 2013, Winnipeg – The long winter that has drifted into spring has intensified the flood risk in Manitoba's Red River Valley.

A late melt combined with heavy snowfall upstream in North Dakota prompted the provincial government to revise its flood outlook Thursday. The Red River is expected to run 30 centimetres higher than it did in 2009, when hundreds of residents in small communities were removed from the area as a precaution and many fields and roads were under water.

The province's chief flood forecaster says that means Highway 75 – the main link between Winnipeg and the United States border – will be closed. Some communities south of Winnipeg will have to shut parts of their ring dikes, leaving them perhaps with just one road to the outside world, Phillip Mutulu added.

"Dikes closures and a (highway) 75 detour could be required, although no communities are expected to lose road access (completely)."


The good news for area residents is that the Red is expected to remain well below the record level set during the so-called flood of the century in 1997. In the wake of that disaster, homes and businesses in the valley were built up to 60 centimetres higher than that level.

Evacuations may occur as they did in 2009, when tiny isolated communities had their residents leave before the river peaked, in fear that fire trucks or ambulances would have trouble getting through swamped roads in the event of an emergency.

The forecast for the rest of the province remains unchanged. Super-sized sandbags are being placed along low-lying roads in Brandon, the province's second-largest city that sits along the Assiniboine River. But water levels are not expected to pose a significant problem unless major storms coincide with the melt.

Flood preparations are an annual ritual in Manitoba, where meltwater comes from as far away as Alberta and South Dakota.

The province has several measures in place designed to keep water flowing smoothly. Three amphibious icebreakers are used to break up rivers, dikes have been built around many smaller communities and diversion channels move water around larger cities.

Winnipeg is protected by the Red River Floodway – a 47-kilometre-long channel that diverts water around the city to the east and north.

The biggest factor is whether a freak storm develops and dumps a lot of snow or rain just as meltwater starts to make the rivers rise. Because of unusually cold weather this year, the Red is expected to peak only in the second half of May – about three weeks later than usual.

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