February 28, 2019 11:00 pm
Updated: March 1, 2019 12:14 pm

Manitoba flood forecast warns of major Red River flooding, potential ice jams

Some roads and farmland in Manitoba are likely to be flooded once the spring melt begins, but communities should remain unscathed unless the weather takes a severe turn, says the provincial government.

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Some roads and farmland in Manitoba are likely to be flooded once the spring melt begins, but communities should remain unscathed unless the weather takes a severe turn, says the provincial government.

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Assuming average weather between now and the end of April, Manitoba’s network of diversions will handle the flow, Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said Thursday in the first flood outlook of the year.

“Water levels will be below the flood-protection levels of community dikes and individual (homeowner) flood-protection works.”

The biggest area of concern is the Red River. Other rivers such as the Assiniboine and Souris are also expected to run high, but not as high as the Red, and communities should not be threatened.

READ MORE: Looking back at the Flood of the Century that devastated Ste. Agathe, Man.

Low-lying farmland in some areas is expected to be temporarily flooded, and some sections on roads such as Highway 75 — the main route connecting Winnipeg to the United States border — will likely have to be closed for a period of time, Schuler said.

The situation in the Red River Valley is shaping up to be similar to the one in 2011, when some small towns south of Winnipeg had to temporarily close off some roads leading to other communities.

Schuler warned there are variables that could make matters worse. A large amount of snow followed by a sudden melt could raise water levels higher. The cold winter has also made for thicker-than-normal ice, which increases the chance of ice jams that can cause rivers to surge suddenly.

Ice jams caused severe flooding along the Red River north of Winnipeg in 2009, which prompted evacuations. The government later forced dozens of homeowners on Crown land to relocate.

READ MORE: 5 of the worst floods in Canadian history

“2009 was devastating,” said Selkirk mayor Larry Johannson, who faced the brunt of the ice jams that year. “There was a lot of damage out here. What we have to do is make sure we have this ice ready.”

Ice cutters are in place to aid in preventing ice jams north of Winnipeg.

Randall Paull / Global News

Selkirk already has machinery on the ice to try and break it up to ensure that no big pieces of it are flowing down the river once the water starts to rise.

“The weather can change in a heartbeat, so we have to be ready for when that milder weather comes,” Johannson said.

The province will issue updated flood forecasts closer to the spring melt, Schuler said.

With files from The Canadian Press

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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