Manitoba faces potential spring floods

Published: March 6, 2019

Updated: April 1, 2019

Author: Luke Jones

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Manitobans know a thing or two about devastating flooding. A decade ago, the province was hit by serious flooding causing road closures and evacuations. Ten years later in 2019, the southern part of Manitoba is again at risk and could see severe spring flooding in the Red River Valley region.

“Early forecasting data shows that we expect to see major flooding along the Red River, with both the Red River Floodway and the Portage Diversion pressed into service,” said Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler in a press release Thursday.

As mentioned by Schuler, mitigations are in place in Manitoba. The Red River Floodway is a man-made waterway that provides flood control. Portage Diversion is a water control build that diverts waterflow into a diversion channel from the Assiniboine River.

Schuler says if weather conditions remain normal, spring floods should bring water levels into the Red River near 2011 levels. Problems may arise if weather conditions are worse, Red River could flood to 2009 levels could rise from late season snowfall, increased snow melt, and typical spring storms.

In 2009, a spring flood caused the closure of Manitoba Highway 75 and other major roads throughout the province, while thousands were evacuated. At the time, flood insurance was not offered by carriers (the coverage was introduced in 2015), so many homeowners were left without protection during the floods.

“March remains a crucial month in terms of snowmelt and weather conditions, and how that will affect the flood forecast going forward,” Schuler said.

Last month, The Co-operators announced it will expand its flood insurance policy to Manitoba.

“With the increase in frequency and severity of flooding in Canada, and the lack of flood insurance, it really has been a significant unmet need for Canadians in our communities,” said Tara Laidman, program director of flood initiatives. “In recent years, weather has contributed to record-level water damage in Canadian homes, and it’s a trend that we expect to continue.”