Manitoba put three of its amphibexes to work Wednesday, cutting up ice on the Red River north of Winnipeg in an effort to prevent ice-jam flooding this spring. 

But the amount of snow sitting on the ice was making the crews' work tough. 


Three of Manitoba's amphibexes were out on the Red River north of Winnipeg Wednesday, cutting up thick ice under heavy snow in the bitter cold, in an effort to prevent spring flooding caused by ice jams this spring. (Angela Johnston/CBC)

CBC reporter Angela Johnston was on board one of the machines, as it worked a patch of ice about eight kilometres from the mouth of the Red.

She watched as one of the crew members manoeuvred two joy sticks to move the bucket of the machine and pull the 22 tonne amphibex on top of the ice, crushing it.  

Johnston said the work was made even more challenging in the bitter cold and strong winds, but their goal is to clear a kilometre of ice on the river by the end of every day. 


Amphibex crews had their work cut out for them Wednesday on the Red River north of Winnipeg, as they tried to cut through thick ice in the bitter cold. (Angela Johnston/CBC)

Crews have been at the job preparing for the spring melt for the last two weeks. 

But it's not a new job for Lawrence Johnson. For almost a decade, he's spent his winters on the Red, breaking up the ice. 

"I think it's the adrenaline rush that brings you out here," he said. 

Johnson said every day, and every winter, is different.

"There's no manual for ice breaking," he said. "We're writing the manual every year."

The three $1.2 million machines work alongside ice cutters trying to break up more than 30 kilometres of ice on the river in about a month

Johnson said he likes it because it's a challenge, but he said it's also serious work because of the destructive power of an ice jam, which in 2009 was responsible for massive damage. 

"You got to feel for the people getting flooded," he said "They're basically standing there, losing their homes. If you could rectify that, it's a great feeling." 

An added challenge this year he said is deep snow and the arctic cold which takes a toll on the machinery.

The amphibexes will be at work around the clock until the end of March.