More precipitation is expected this weekend, but Manitoba’s hydrologic forecasters said it’s unlikely to impact flood conditions, when officials provided an update on Manitoba’s flood situation Thursday afternoon.
Johanu Botha, head of the province’s emergency management organization, was joined by Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk and flood forecaster Fisaha Unduche on the south grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building.
The forecast calls for five to 10 millimetres of rain on Saturday — not enough to worsen conditions.
The Fisher River, which has spilled its banks and forced some 1,400 people from the Peguis First Nation to leave their homes, is at or near its peak and will gradually drop to within its banks next week, the province’s top flood forecaster said Thursday.
“It could go up, down a few centimetres … it’s going to stay there a few more days,” said Unduche.
“It’s going to be a very gradual recession. That’s why it will take another five to seven days before it comes to the banks.”
There is no major precipitation in the forecast for the next two weeks, which should allow rivers and tributaries to drop. Some showers forecast for Sunday are not expected to be enough to have any effect, Unduche said.
The news was welcomed by Chris Ewan, mayor of the Rural Municipality of Ritchot, which covers a large area along the Red River south of Winnipeg.
The river has become a lake in many areas, flooding farmland and roads. Communities in the Red River Valley are protected by dikes and diversion channels, but sandbagging efforts have been underway to offer more protection to outlying properties.
“The amount of water we’re dealing with right now is unsustainable,” Ewan said.
The municipal government has served 180 homes with evacuation notices and about one-third of the people have left.
More than 20 roads are closed in the region.
Further south, a section of the main highway between Winnipeg and the United States border remained closed Thursday, which forced motorists to take a long detour to the west.
The Red is expected to peak next week, but at a slightly lower level than predicted a week ago. That should allow communities to keep portions of their dikes open so they can maintain road access to the outside world, officials said.
Local states of emergency
The province says the Red River Valley is being closely monitored as the spring flood season continues, and Manitoba’s emergency organization is in close contact with local authorities and emergency management partners, as states of local emergency have been declared in 25 Manitoba communities.
A number of areas remain under flood watches or warnings, including the Red River from Emerson to the Floodway inlet and from the floodway channel outlet to Lake Winnipeg.
Rivers like the La Salle, Pembina, Boyne, Fisher, Icelandic, Roseau, and Whitemud — among others — are also under watches or warnings from the province.
Sturgeon Creek is under a high water advisory, as are Deadhorse, Shannon, and Netley creeks.
The province said Manitobans are encouraged to stay off waterways during flood season, as well as areas where flood response crews are working.
Flood forecasters continue to monitor rain levels and the potential impacts on river flows. Up-to-date river forecast information can be found on the province’s website.
Manitoba premier Heather Stefanson has been touring flood zones, and she told 680 CJOB earlier on Thursday that she remains confident in the flood outlook, despite the province’s unpredictable weather in recent weeks.
“These Colorado Lows have come in fairly quickly — even though they gave us a little bit of time to prepare, which just never know how bad it’s going to hit in various communities,” Stefanson said.
“These municipalities are working really hard.”
When it comes to flood infrastructure, Premier Stefanson acknowledged the need for upgrades.
I think what we need to do… is not just bringing structures that have been damaged back to where they were, but at longer-term,’ she said.
“And what are the kinds of structures that we need to have in place for the long term?
“So we’re working with municipalities on those assessments.”
–With files from The Canadian Press