Dry spell in the Prairies fuels grassfires, threatens agriculture
WINNIPEG -- The start of the growing season in the southern Prairies this year is one of the driest on record, which could threaten livestock and crops.
According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, this past winter was one of the direst on record in southern Manitoba. Parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan also saw below average snowfall and above average temperatures over the winter, resulting in a lack of soil moisture.
"I've never seen Manitoba so dry as I've seen it this particular spring, and really southeastern Prairies. Central Alberta's never been drier, maybe the second driest in 130 years," said Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips.
The provincial government in Manitoba, which normally releases a flood forecast in April, is preparing for a potential drought.
"Our government is closely monitoring conditions and increasing its drought readiness," said Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler.
Farmers are concerned what this could mean for this year’s crop.
"There's no doubt we are concerned about the moisture levels that we are brining in from last year," said Manitoba farmer Craig Riese. "We are bringing nothing forward."
It's not just farms that are affected by these dry conditions. In mid-March, 15,000 hectares burned in a wildfire east of Winnipeg, threatening homes. On Thursday, nearly two dozen homes were evacuated and one home was destroyed after extreme dry conditions fueled a bushfire in southwestern Manitoba,
"I think our acreage here was dead centre of where the fire came up and it basically surrounded our whole house," said homeowner Murray Warwaruk, who lives near Carberry, Man. and was able to return to his home later that evening.
Modelling suggests that the dry spell could last until May. Many are hoping for some relief in June, which is typically the wettest month in southern Manitoba.