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Winter Roads won't be re-opening in Manitoba

March 24, 2010 — Mild weather forced the closure of ice roads in northern Manitoba to the dismay of people in remote communities.

Manitoba won't re-open its winter roads this season because the mild weather earlier this month has left them too soft.

People in remote northern communities had hoped the roads would be reopened after temperatures dropped last weekend. But the province says the roads aren't safe.

About 30 heavy trucks were recently stranded on the winter roads for days. The drivers had to be rescued.

Ice roads are a life-line in the winter for many communities in Canada's north. But this winter, mild temperatures have made Manitoba's ice roads virtually impassible. As a result, some northern First Nations and politicians are pushing for all-weather roads.

This year, the province paid more than nine million dollars to open and maintain the 2,200 kilometre winter road system to 23 communities. According to a 2001 report complied by the province, it was estimated that it would cost more than one billion dollars to replace the winter roads.

Ice roads are frozen, human-made structures on the surface of bays, rivers or lakes that are used to transport everything from groceries to gasoline in the winter. The photo on the right is an example of one of these roads.

This year, Manitoba's roads were only open for less than a month. Warm weather earlier in the season delayed construction of the roads that connect the northern and southern part of Manitoba. They were finally able to open in February -- much later than usual.

'November was pretty mild across the province. In fact, for at least ten days, Dauphin was sitting in the double digits,' says Weather Network meteorologist Gerald Cheng. 'This month has been brutal, as well. Temperatures have been well above freezing some days.'

Those who constructed the roads say mild temperatures were one problem, and a lack of snow was another. They need to pack the snow to allow the frost to penetrate the ground.

Without the roads, supplies has to been flown in at a greater cost.

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