The Province of Manitoba released its updated flood forecast at a news conference Thursday morning. Flood officials had called for significant flooding, but lower water levels than last year earlier in the season. The word serious has now been added to the forecast, as officials warn flooding will be comparable to 2006 proportions.
Senior provincial flood forecaster Alf Warketin predicts the Red River to crest in Emerson by either March 31 or April 1. The crest for Winnipeg is expected to hit April 6 — two weeks ahead of schedule.
Warketin says if the weather remains favourable and dry for the next two weeks, the flood risk will diminish considerably.
More than 70 municipalities were affected by flooding last season and the province wants to ensure it doesn’t happen again. 1,500 flood tubes were purchased in preparation for this year’s flood, which is five times the capacity of last year. The province has since purchased 60 properties threatened by flooding.
Highway 75 is prone to annual closure due to rising waters, but the province is working to complete phases of an upgrade to the highway to reduce the amount of time vehicles cannot access it. $10 million has been spent so far this year on improvements, which includes raising the surface and bringing the road up to interstate standards comparable to I-29 in the U.S. Despite the first phase of improvements, flood officials predict Highway 75 to be closed for about 11-12 days this year. In 2006, it was closed for 18 days. The second phase is now underway in and around Morris, including a hydraulic assessment. A total of $75 million has been into improvements on the road south of the city in the last 4 years.
Ice jamming was a major issue last year contributing to flooding north of Winnipeg, but this year, officials don’t see the ice being a problem. Ice-cutting equipment, along with two Amphibex machines, have been at work for a few weeks already near Breezy Point north of Selkirk.
South of the border, the Red River in North Dakota is expected to crest this weekend, as volunteers in Fargo work to fill one million sandbags.
The complete provincial flood forecast is available at: http://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/floodinfo/