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Red River to crest next week at level close to peak of spring flood

Wednesday, October 16th 2019, 6:13 pm - Record September rain, last week's snow drive water level to break autumn records

The Red River is now expected to rise next week to within 16 inches of the crest of this year's spring flood, as melt from last weekend's snowstorm continues to drive up water levels that were already record heights for the fall.

The Red in Winnipeg is expected to peak between Oct. 20 and 23 between 16 and 16.3 feet above normal winter ice level at James Avenue, provincial flood forecaster Fisaha Unduche said Tuesday.

That level is considered a minor flood in Winnipeg, which activated pumping stations to reduce the risk of sewer backups and has filled 21,000 sandbags as a precaution.


It's also roughly the height of a bowling pin below the peak of the spring 2019 flood crest, which was 17.7 feet James on April 15.

SEE ALSO: Manitobans could face more than week-long delay for power after snowstorm

The cause of the unprecedented fall flood is record September precipitation followed by a week of record October snow and rain, Unduche said.

"Levels on the Red River continue to rise on average about a foot a day for the past few days," he said.

Over the past seven days, many areas of the province received between 50 and 100 millimetres of precipitation, Unduche said. Before the storm, the Red River Valley had already received four times the normal amount rain this September and October.

The Red River Floodway, in operation since Wednesday, is preventing the river from rising higher. The city's emergency operations centre said Winnipeggers don't need to worry about water lapping at low-lying properties.

Screen Shot 2019-10-16 at 10.57.20 AM (Clint Masse wades through the "haunted forest" trail at A Maze In Corn, under water due to the backwater effect of the Red River Floodway operation. Courtesy: Pierre Verriere/CBC)

RELATED: 'Unprecedented' wet fall hurts crops, puts flood fighters into action

"There are no risks right now for flooding, for sandbagging, for any of those issues," Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service assistant chief Jason Shaw said Tuesday.

Sandbags have been filled as a precaution, communications manager David Driedger said in a statement.

Immediately south of the city, however, the floodway creates a backwater effect. At A Maze In Corn near St. Adolphe, the "haunted forest" trail — a Halloween attraction — has been inundated by the Red River and won't be ready for the Oct. 31 holiday.

"It takes us six weeks to build this with a crew of people and to remove it and reinstall it in days is never going to work," said corn-maze proprietor Clint Masse, wading in a flooded stand of trees.

'The weather is our enemy': Manitoba snowstorm shuts highways, closes schools, snaps trees Unduche said he does not expect any serious overland flooding along the Red River, aside from low-lying areas near St. Jean Baptiste and Letellier.

No communities are expected to close their ring dikes, however, and no rural property owners should have to close ring dikes around individual homes, Unduche added.

"Even though the flow is very high for this time of the year, we'll be within the banks," he said.

Nonetheless, some people who live in the Red River Valley are watching the waterway.

"I think if we get a lot of snow this winter, we're going to be in for a treat next spring," said Keith Boutet in Ste. Agathe.

haunted-forest-trail (Staff at A Maze In Corn are packing up the skeletons because the "haunted forest" trail is under water. Courtesy: Trevor Lyons/CBC)

Unduche said it's too soon to predict a spring flood. He said he's more concerned with the next few weeks. The Red River Floodway will operate for the remainder of October, he said.

"There is some moderate precipitation in the forecast in the coming five to seven days and we expect we will continue to monitor that system," he said.

"Provincial staff are also monitoring impacted areas in [the] southern and southeastern portions of the province, including the Whiteshell lake areas, which are near crest at this moment in time."

This article, written by Bartley Kives, was originally published for CBC News.


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