Moderate to severe drought grips southern Manitoba

A dry winter exacerbated by a drier spring has left a wide swath of southern Manitoba in a state of moderate to severe drought, with much of the rest of the province classified as "abnormally dry."

Little rain in forecast to bring relief after dry winter, early spring, Environment Canada says

A police officer walks the railway tracks along the area where a grass fire burned near Dugald Road and Bournais Drive in Winnipeg on April 29. Most of Manitoba is seeing moderate to severe drought conditions. Those dry conditions have led to numerous early-season grass fires and burn bans in the province. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

A dry winter exacerbated by a drier spring has left a wide swath of southern Manitoba in a state of moderate to severe drought, with much of the rest of the province classified as "abnormally dry," according to Environment Canada.

Most of southern Manitoba is currently classified as being in a D1, or moderate drought, which Environment Canada calls "an event that occurs every five to 10 years." The agency uses a five-class system to rank the severity of drought.

Much of southern Manitoba is seeing moderate drought conditions (show here in light brown) or severe drought conditions (dark brown) this spring. The lighter yellow areas are classified as 'abnormally dry' by Environment Canada. (Environment Canada)

However, large portions of southern Manitoba, including areas south of Winnipeg and south of Brandon, as well as a large patch north of Selkirk to Lake Manitoba, are seeing D2, or severe drought, conditions. Severe drought happens every 10 to 20 years, Environment Canada says.

Precipitation was extremely sparse for the month of April in Manitoba. For Winnipeg, this past April was the driest since 1988 and the fourth driest since records were first kept in 1872, said Environment Canada meteorologist Justin Share.

Winnipeg received just 1.7 millimetres of rain last month, while the city normally gets an average of 19.2 mm in April.

The driest April recorded was in 1980, when only trace amounts of rain were observed in Winnipeg. Tied in second place are 1987 and 1988, when only 0.8 mm of rain fell.

There is little chance of rain for the next week — Environment Canada calls for a 40 per cent chance of showers in and around Winnipeg on Tuesday, but little else. The Brandon area may fare better, with periods of rain forecast Monday night into Tuesday morning. Temperatures will hover around the 20 C mark for daily highs.

Fire burns among the reeds and tall grasses April 29. RM of St. Clements spokesperson Ken Sim says areas like this one near Brokenhead Ojibway Nation are normally boggy at this time of year. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Large dry areas combined with wicked winds have led to numerous early-season grass fires and burn bans throughout the southern half of the province. Some of those grass fires burned homes.

The City of Winnipeg implemented a burn ban for the entire city on Wednesday, including fire pits, bonfires, burning crop residue, disposing of wood or warning fires.

The drought extends through the Prairies to much of southern Saskatchewan, and to parts of Ontario.