Worst of flooding could be over for Winnipeg
Published Thursday, April 16, 2009 9:20PM EDT
Winnipeg may have seen the worst of this year's flooding season as water levels begin to stabilize along the banks of the swollen Red River.
On Thursday, a state of emergency was declared for certain sections of Winnipeg, but later in the day, there were signs that the river had crested earlier than expected.
Still, officials warned that water levels could still change as the spring runoff continues to flow through the Red River's tributaries.
"Unpredictable ice conditions on the Assiniboine River have increased Red River water levels in Winnipeg, while forecasted levels in some other parts of the Red River Valley are now somewhat lower ..." said a flood media bulletin issued on Thursday.
However, a dry weather forecast with very little precipitation should also provide relief for flood-weary residents.
"The Red River will begin a very gradual decline tomorrow and remain above six metres until the middle of next week," said the flood watch bulletin.
However, parts of Winnipeg are still under a state of emergency.
The warning affects about 280 homes located near the swollen river and the city's main protective dyke.
However, officials stressed Thursday that the declaration is "proactive" and isn't meant to instill fear or panic among locals.
Meanwhile, thanks to no precipitation water levels on other sections of the Red River could be expected to
Randy Hull, emergency preparedness coordinator with the city of Winnipeg, said the warning is for homes on the river-side of the city's primary dike system.
Hull told CTV Newsnet that "a few pockets of homes" outside of the city have also been evacuated as the waters continue to rise.
Winnipeg is the latest Manitoba municipality to issue a warning following weeks of tense flood watching in the region.
Provincial crews have partially sealed up 12 small communities along the Red River with ring dikes, including Riverside, which is now completely closed up.
Meanwhile, the municipality of Ritchot put 150 households under a voluntary evacuation order Thursday after roadways were washed out.
Other evacuations took place in nearby St. Adolphe, and evacuees have been offered stays in Winnipeg hotels.
Meanwhile, Hull said that locals are exhausted from "several rounds of this fight with the Red River."
While ice jams caused flooding earlier this month, Hull said the current warnings stem from spring runoff, warm temperatures and rising waters in tributary rivers.
"It's the third worst level of flooding over the last 100 years here in Winnipeg," said Hull.
The Red River is expected to crest at Morris, south of Winnipeg, on Saturday.
Officials predict the water will rise to the second highest level in a century, just short of the flood of 1997.
That "so-called flood of the century" caused $400 million in damage and forced the evacuation of some 28,000 people.
This time, the residents of Morris haven't evacuated and are instead protected by a ring dike around the town. Roads into town are closed to the north, south and west. People can still drive in and out to the east but emergency officials say the town may have to close the dike, if the water continues to rise.
Inside the town, residents are trying to get used to the eerie quiet. Highway 75, which runs from the U.S. border to Winnipeg, remains closed under two metres of water. Residents say with no trucks roaring through the town as usual, and everyone hunkered down at home, Morris feels like a ghost town.
Flooding to last 'several more weeks'
Residents in the rest of the southern part of the province are being told to brace for "several more weeks" of washed out roads and fields that resemble lakes.
"Crests from St. Jean Baptiste to the floodway inlet are now expected to exceed those of 1979 by about 15.25 centimetres (half a foot)," reads the latest flooding bulletin on the government of Manitoba website.
"Once rivers have crested, there will be a gradual decline in levels. However, levels will remain high for several weeks, even with favourable weather."
Manitoba Premier Gary Doer said while the danger of forcing evacuations is not over, he's pleased with how well prepared the province has been for this flood.
"If we didn't have all our flood protection systems in place, we would be evacuating 100,000 people in Winnipeg," he told Canada AM Thursday.
"We have the floodway diversion, we had people sandbagging last night in low, outlying areas for another 100 homes."
With files from The Canadian Press