Flood forecast creating needless panic, says Morris reeve
Ralph Groening skeptical of Manitoba's latest flood outlook
A municipal leader in Manitoba's Red River Valley, which is expected to see flooding this spring, says he's skeptical about the provincial government's latest flood forecast.
Morris Reeve Ralph Groening says the worst-case scenarios in the forecast, released on Thursday, are causing unnecessary panic among people in his rural municipality, even though it's still unseasonably cold outside.
"Whatever event we're predicting, it's not imminent. So let's just step back a little bit. Let's not panic, people — let's be reasonable, let's be rational, let's talk to people," Groening told CBC News on Thursday night.
"Let's reassure people rather than say this is what we think [is the] worst case. I believe that's bad policy."
Forecasters are predicting that Manitoba may experience its fourth-worst flood ever this spring.
But Groening said those predictions — which, he noted, have not always been accurate in the past — are upsetting residents and forcing him to plan for evacuations that may never happen.
"As soon as you get to talk about plans like that, it has an effect on our industry, it has an effect on our people, it has an effect on schools, it has an effect on the seniors living in those communities," he said.
The latest outlook says weather conditions are leaning towards the potential for major flooding in the Red River Valley, with water levels slightly above what was seen in the 2009 flood.
The elevated flood risk is the result of recent snow storms in the area, including storms in North Dakota that produced more precipitation than what is normal there for the entire month of April, according to the province.
The forecast indicates that all 18 community ring dikes in the Red River Valley will need to be partially closed, and some rural homes and farms may have to be evacuated.
It also predicts that Highway 75 — which runs through Morris — will need to be closed due to flooding as the ring dikes close.
Highway 75 was closed to traffic for 36 days in 2009 and 44 days during the 2011 flood. Residents and truckers have complained of lengthy detours that were put in place while the road was closed.
Groening said the main problem, in the event of a flood, would be access to some communities.
Otherwise, he said homes and businesses in the Morris area are protected to 1997 levels, which were worse than what the province is predicting at this point.