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The 1997 Red River flood became known as the 'Flood of the Century'

Saturday, April 30th 2022, 6:08 am - On this day in weather history, Manitoba was flooded.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story included an error in the headline. In fact, one person died as a result of the floods.

The Red River runs through Minnesota, North Dakota, and Manitoba. It's 890 km long, with the confluence source of Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail rivers in Wahpeton, North Dakota, and feeding into Lake Winnipeg.

In 1950, the river flooded, eight dikes broke and a large portion of Winnipeg was overtaken by water. Around 70,000 people were evacuated. Because of this flood, Manitoba Premier Duff Roblin initiated the Red River Floodway (a manufactured flood-control waterway).

Flood Manitoba Courtesy of TWN

The floodway opened in 1968. The city also installed permanent dikes and diversion dams in the Winnipeg area. After those projects were completed, the Portage Diversion and the Shellmouth Dam were also built on the Assiniboine River.

Flood Manitoba Courtesy of TWN

But, in April and May of 1997, these structures failed to protect the province as 6.6 m of water overflowed and flooded areas of the province.

The floodway was built to handle a flow of 1,700 m3/s but was given a flow of 1,800 m3/s.


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The 1997 flood caused 28,000 people to evacuate and cost $500 million in damage. The river also flooded areas of Minnesota, North Dakota, and southern Manitoba.

Sadly, the flood took the life of 14-year-old boy Adam Young, who was pulled into a storm sewer by the floodwater while playing with his friends near a ditch. His body was found weeks later.

Flood Manitoba Courtesy of TWN

Manitoba called for assistance and the Canadian Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the provincial Department of Natural Resources came to aid.

Thousands of volunteers help build sandbag dikes around properties and infrastructure. The province was literally under water when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien called a snap election.

Several liberal MPs from the province asked for a delay in the election until the flooding was a bit more controlled. The request was denied.

Flood Manitoba Courtesy of TWN

An MP at the time, Reg Alcock, turned his campaign office into a volunteer relief centre, and Alcock spent his time in relief efforts. He won and was re-elected.

To learn more about the 1997 Red River flood, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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Thumbnail: Winnipeg, MB. Red River Flood

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