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Risk of major spring flooding in Manitoba


Staff writers
March 27, 2013 — Manitoba released the latest spring flood outlook on Tuesday, which calls for increased flooding potential on the Red, Souris, Pembina, Assiniboine, Saskatchewan and Qu’Appelle rivers, and in the Interlake.


Outlook is still very dependent on weather conditions from now until the spring melt
Outlook is still very dependent on weather conditions from now until the spring melt

According to the provincial flood forecast, additional March snowfall and an above average snowpack have increased the risk of flooding from moderate to major.

"The precipitation you have to watch, is the precipitation in March and because of the number of weather events both here in Manitoba and right across the Prairies, we've seen as much as 200% of normal moisture in the precipitation," says Steve Ashton, Manitoba Emergency Measures Minister. "That means when we started our first flood outlook, we were looking at a potential flood scenario of mild to moderate and now in some parts of the province we are looking at potential for major flooding." 

The current outlook does not foresee prolonged river flooding and high lake levels as in 2011. Instead, the outlook is trending towards the 2009 flood in the Red River Valley and the Interlake.

Low temperatures are keeping frost in the ground longer than normal, which can then result in flooding
Low temperatures are keeping frost in the ground longer than normal, which can then result in flooding

"The general situation is that we will have some pretty significant overland flooding no matter what," adds Ashton. "The key difference obviously is that year over year we've gotten better mitigation, better rapid response, better ability to deal with those kinds of floods."

In addition to the heavier than normal snowfall amounts, colder temperatures will also cause a later spring melt, which in turn increases the likelihood of a rapid melt.

Forecasters say despite the increased risk of flooding, conditions can change quickly and the outlook is very dependent on certain weather conditions.

The province continues to monitor the situation and implement effective flood protective measures.

"So even a flood that may be historic in terms of proportion can often have far less impact than previous floods," says Ashton.

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