The Red River could rise to 2009 levels in Manitoba this spring with unfavourable weather conditions, according to the Manitoba government’s first flood outlook of the year.
But exactly what Manitoba’s flood situation will look like this spring will depend on what Mother Nature has in store in the coming weeks and months, says Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler.
With favourable conditions Schuler said spring flooding along the Red will be closer to what Manitobans saw in 2019, and the river would rise to 2011 levels with average conditions.
“Our focus is currently on the Red River, where we are expecting a significant inflow of water from the northern United States, but with favourable weather conditions in Manitoba, we would expect high water levels similar to last spring,” the minister said in a release Thursday.
“The Assiniboine River basin and other rivers are expected to remain mostly in the bank, with possible over-bank high water covering agricultural land.”
Red River flooding in 2011 closed Hwy 75 for 29 days, while the highway was shuttered for 37 days when the river ran over its banks in 2009.
The highway that runs south into North Dakota remained open during last year’s spring run-off when the Red River Floodway was put into service.
The province’s first flood outlook of 2020 was released Thursday and comes after a wet fall across southern had raised concerns about the potential for flooding in the spring.
A government report released in December said near-record precipitation left soil moisture levels ranging from above-normal to well-above-normal, except in the north.
Overall though, Schuler said a relatively warm and dry winter is easing annual spring flood fears in Manitoba.
He said there has not been a lot of snow in southern Manitoba this season, and the mild weather so far has already helped some of it dissipate.
One cause for concern, though, is heavy snowfall along the United States portion of the Red River, but the river in Manitoba is wider and has more capacity, noted Schuler.
Earlier this month, the mayor of Grand Forks, N.D., signed an emergency declaration in preparation for what Manitoba’s neighbours to the south believe will be a historic spring flood.
The U.S. National Weather Service has predicted major spring flooding all along the Red River right up to the U.S.-Manitoba border.
While Schuler acknowledged Manitoba is expecting “a significant inflow of water” from the northern U.S., he said much depends on the weather in the coming weeks.
Defences in the Red River valley have been built up since the so-called Flood of the Century in 1997, and communities have ring dikes and diversion ditches to protect homes and businesses.
The Manitoba government said it will have a more detailed assessment of the Red River’s risk of flooding in its second flood outlook, expected to be released in late March.
–With files from The Canadian Press