The rain has stopped, so why is Manitoba still flooding?
The rains have eased across southern Manitoba, but flooding concerns remain.
Why? Blame southern Saskatchewan.
Manitoba is being inundated by rivers flowing from its westerly neighbour.
Parts of southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan suffered a deluge of rain last weekend with reports of 60 to 150 mm of rain falling in some parts. Bill McMurtry, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, said that they received unconfirmed reports of 200 mm of rain in some parts of Saskatchewan.
“June is the wettest month and that is the case for many locations in western Canada,” McMurtry said.
Still, he said, this type of days-long deluge is more typical of late spring than summer.
Brandon, MB, typically gets 80.7 mm for the entire month of June. Over a three-day period last weekend, the city received about 136 mm, which gave it a monthly total of 250 mm.
The problem is that the weather has been wetter than normal across the Prairies over the past three months. All that water has seeped into the ground, leaving the heavy rainfall that fell last weekend nowhere to go. The rivers rise, crest and then spread out across the land, including valuable farmers’ fields.
READ MORE: Rain leaves Manitoba farmland unseeded
To make matters worse, rivers like Saskatchewan’s Qu’Appelle – which has itself endured heavy rain over the past weekend – is causing headaches as it nears the Assiniboine River in Manitoba.
“The Qu’Appelle is a major contributor to the Assiniboine flow,” Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization Minister Lee Spencer said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Seventy-eight provincial roads and hundreds of municipal roads have been closed as 17 rivers and streams crest their banks.
Is this the new normal?
Though some people may believe the culprit is climate change, it’s always difficult to point to single weather events as being the result of something as large and long-term as climate change.
“It used to be that the weather would just hit and run. … What we’re seeing are these systems are – either because they’re so large or because they’re so slow in motion – that they’re spending more time over people and over areas,” said Environment Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips.
“You’re getting a three-day event rather than a one-day event.”
“In many cases the records seem to have been broken by a long shot,” he said.
But when it comes to climate change as a cause, Phillips said, it’s just too early to say.
“Just because you have a wet month it doesn’t say that this is climate change. That would really be bad science.”
But weather models predict more long periods of heavy rain over the next 30 to 50 years.
“You can find wetter moments in the past,” Phillips said. “But then we’re seeing more of them, more of these events. They seem to be spread over a larger area.”
But for the short-term, the weather forecast is promising.
“The weather is improving,” McMurtry said. “We’re going to warmer temperatures; we’re going to drier conditions. … We’re not expecting much in the way of precipitation over the next little while.”
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