Despite a blast of winter weather in Manitoba this week, the province says it isn’t expecting to see major flooding this spring.
On Tuesday, Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said winter precipitation levels in central and southern Manitoba basins have tracked below normal since November, and, over the same time, precipitation in northern basins have been normal to below normal.
With long-term weather projections pointing to near-normal to below normal precipitation in April and May, Schuler says there’s low risk for flooding this spring.
“Our outlook remains similar to the report we released in February with the risk for any high water activity remaining low this spring,” he said in a release.
“Manitoba’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre will continue to monitor watershed conditions across the province and our government is prepared to respond to any potential hydrologic events to ensure the safety of all Manitobans.”
Natalie Hasell is a Warning Preparedness Meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, and says it’s a little too early to say how much precipitation the province may see in the coming weeks to months.
“There’s no dominant trend actually; it could go either way,” Hasell says.
“Will we get a little bit of rain all the time, or will we go for long stretches without? It’s really unclear.”
Schuler said the spring run-off is nearly complete in southern and central Manitoba, and the Red River has already peaked between Emerson and Winnipeg.
“Thus, the Red River Floodway will not be operated this spring. There will also be minimal operation of the Portage Diversion, and will only be operated to reduce ice-related damages in the lower Assiniboine River,” he said.
Spring run-off has not started in northern basins, including the Saskatchewan and Churchill rivers, and Schuler said there’s a low to moderate risk for high water activity within those basins.
The minister said the province is preparing contingency plans should the lack of precipitation push Manitoba into a drought.
Drought is hard to predict, the minister added, and at the moment they aren’t expecting one, due to the likelihood of rain in the next month or so.
However, Hasell says the lack of moisture should leave southern Manitoba on guard for another potential threat in the short term.
“With drier conditions, we are concerned with fire risk as well, so wildland fires, grassland fires, forest fires, that sort of thing,” Hasell says.
— With files from Will Reimer