Major flood risk forecasted for Red River basin

Manitoba has forecasted a major risk of flooding in the province's Red River basin. Communities that dealt with devastating flood damage in 2022, are having to make preparations for the same situation this year. Alex Karpa reports.

By Alex Karpa

With the spring season upon us, Manitoba has forecasted a major risk of flooding in the province’s Red River basin. Communities that dealt with devastating flood damage last year, are having to make preparations for the same situation.

Several communities in the Red River basin are still dealing with damage from last year’s flood. The heightened risk of flooding this year is never welcoming news but is not a surprise for Chris Ewen. The Mayor in the Manitoba RM of Ritchot says they are ready for whatever comes their way.

“This is something we deal with every year, be it minor, medium and major flooding risks,” said Chris Ewen, Mayor of Ritchot. “This is something we have to prepare for, even if it is best case scenario. We’re always preparing because this is the Red River. This is why we live here. It’s a beautiful area to live in, but it’s also a vicious body of mother nature that we need to make sure we know how it will act on us and how we will react to it.”

Around 7,500 people live in the RM of Ritchot, south of Winnipeg. Ewen says he estimates a third of those people are at risk.

Flooding in 2022 didn’t just wash out roads and impact infrastructure, but it severely devastated farms across southern Manitoba.


“The challenge is the debris, the mess, and the delay of seeding on all the farmland because the straw, the debris, the sticks, wood that all come down from the river and it delays seeding. Every day that you seed after May 10th, you are losing one per cent of your yield,” said Lorne Hamblin, a farmer in Morris, Manitoba.

Hamblin has 4,000 acres of farmland in Morris, Manitoba. Last year, 2,500 acres of that land was completely underwater at the peak of the flood, which completely damaged his fields. He says the outcome of this year’s potential flooding all depends on the spring melt.

“It’s very much a function of the melting process and a function of the additional precipitation from now until spring runoff.”

The Manitoba government issued the warning on Wednesday after recent snowstorms battered North Dakota.

“They’ve got the equivalent of about six inches of water sitting on the land, to be melted off in the headwater,” explained Jay Doering, Hydrologist at the University of Manitoba.

Doering says 85 per cent of the Red River watershed lies south of the border. He says all of that water eventually flows north through southern Manitoba. He adds long-range forecasts predict less than seasonal temperatures over the next few weeks, meaning the flood season will start off with a gradual melt. However, the reason a major risk of flooding was issued is because the Red River is expected to leave its banks.

“When the red leaves its banks, that leads to sort of major flooding.”

However, Doering believes the flood damage will be nowhere near what 2022 brought, but says, it’s important to still be fully prepared.

“A lot of the rural areas that were heavily impacted, are still very much in a recovery mode, and so, we don’t want to add any more damage on the situation that’s already there.”

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