Winkler, Man. pilot gets bird’s eye view of Red River flooding

WATCH ABOVE: Chris Unrau's Red River flood video from Sunday afternoon.

A pilot from Winkler, Man., has taken to the skies to see the extent of flood damage the Red River has wrought just across the Canada/U.S. border.

Chris Unrau told 680 CJOB he hopped in a private plane with his family on the weekend to check out the state of the Red from a bird’s eye view.

“We took off from Winkler and we flew towards Pembina, North Dakota, and then south along the Red River,” he said.

“We circled around Drayton (N.D.) and then came back… and that seemed to be, on Sunday afternoon, where the peak of the flood was.”

At its worst, Unrau — who documented the trip for a YouTube video — said he saw a flooded area about 10 miles wide on the American side of the border, but so far, Manitoba looked mostly unaffected.

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“On the Manitoba side, the river’s a little bit swollen, but not a whole lot going on there yet,” he said.

“We’re going to kind of keep an eye on things and probably go for another flight early next week when we see the crest in Manitoba and see what it looks like then.”

Unrau said he’s been flying for about two decades, and one of the most interesting aspects of exploring the skies above a flood zone is noticing how flood preparations have changed over the years.

Click to play video: 'Rising flood waters in Manitoba over the Easter weekend'
Rising flood waters in Manitoba over the Easter weekend

“What I find interesting is to see the kind of protection that people have taken. You can see now that pretty much all of the yards that are inhabited have ring dikes around them and they’re well-protected,” he said.

“You can see some roads are topped over but there’s a lot of work that’s gone on in the last 15-20 yeasr to prepare for these kinds of events.

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“One thing you won’t stop is water… when it’s comin’, it’s comin’.”

While Unrau says he’s no expert — just a guy with a plane who likes to observe the area from above — his impression of Manitoba’s flood risk from Sunday’s flight is that the cold snap might be the province’s saving grace.

“As much as I would love it if we were having nicer weather right now, we should count ourselves quite fortunate about how cool it is, because that’s going to allow a lot of this water to slide by before more of the spring meltwater enters the system,” he said.

On Monday, infrastructure minister Ron Schuler told 680 CJOB the crests south of the border were very encouraging for Manitoba, and shared Unrau’s belief that the weather has given the province a helping hand.

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“These colder temperatures work very well for us trying to keep the river down,” said Schuler.

“I’m not saying I enjoy it, I’m just saying it’s good for the high-water event.”

Schuler said he expects the Red to crest at Emerson, Man., this weekend, and that the province has ramped up mitigation efforts south of Morris — but Highway 75 will remain open for now.


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