Manitoba’s Flood Expert Predicts Almost No Floods!

WINNIPEG — Following a harsh, long winter, the question on most Canadians’ lips is ‘Will spring ever come?’

Yes, it is – just slowly, the Weather Network folks say. And that’s a good thing, at least for Winnipeggers, who are likely to avoid major flooding this year if only the snow doesn’t melt all at once.

Of course local truckers know that almost every spring, Manitoba has tons of floods and Winnipeg gets cut off from southern markets. But this year could be different.

“Within the City of Winnipeg the snowpack is twice the average depth, but the snowpack density is below normal,” said Fisaha Unduche, Manitoba’s new flood forecaster in his newly released flood forecast for 2014. “Local runoff potential within the city could be above normal if a faster rate of melt occurs.”

Unduche predicted below or near normal potential for flooding for most areas, without “additional significant precipitation” because despite having a lot of snow, the snow doesn’t contain much water.

And that certainly is good news for any trucker passing through Manitoba because this year, flood forecasters said they don’t expect to have to close Highway 75 due to flooding.

Cost of flooding

The Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) knows flooding and its consequences far too well.

In 2009, Highway 75 was closed for a total of 36 days. The trucking industry lost about $1.5 million a week.

In 2009 and 2011, for instance, the MTA estimates that flooding along the same road cost the industry about $13 million.

Truck trips were delayed by an average of an hour to 90 minutes per trip.

And while it looks like most of that damage can be avoided this year, it’s not all good news.

Souris River Basin and Northwestern Manitoba (including the northern portion of Lake Winnipegosis, The Pas), have an above normal flood potential because of higher than normal soil moisture levels at the time of freeze-up and snowpack water content.

These areas, Unduche told the CBC, may be facing the kind of major flooding the region saw in ‘99. 

Luckily, this time around, the province is more prepared to handle flooding, said Steve Topping, the head of the province’s Hydrologic Forecasting.

Of course, the extent of the spring flood potential is still dependent on future weather

conditions from now until the spring melt. Flood potential is significantly affected by:

  • the amount of additional snow and rain,
  • frost depth during runoff,
  • the timing and rate of the spring thaw,
  • the timing of peak flows in Manitoba, the U.S. and other provinces.

For more information to specific areas of Manitoba, view the full report here. 

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