Manitoba's flood forecasters say they're keeping close watch on the weather, with heavy rainfall expected in the coming days, but officials say they're confident the province has the infrastructure to prevent major damage.

The weather forecast calls for that rain in the next 24 hours along the Assiniboine River, with up to 30 millimetres expected around Brandon, Man., and about five to eight millimetres in the Winnipeg area.

Speaking to reporters in Winnipeg on Tuesday afternoon, government officials said they will monitor the rainfall situation.

A flood watch has been issued for the upper Assiniboine from the Shellmouth Dam to Brandon. Any flooding in the Brandon area will be below the flood protection level, according to the province.

In Winnipeg, the Red River is receding after cresting a little higher than expected on Tuesday.

It crept up quickly, jumping from 17.45 feet James on Monday morning to 19.17 feet James at its peak at 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Winnipeggers woke up to see paths, park benches and swaths of riverfront yards swallowed by the water before it began retreating.

By 11 a.m., the river level had fallen back to 19.02 feet.

The quick rising water had prompted the building of sandbag dikes to protect two homes on Cloutier Drive on Monday evening.

The province says it's unlikely that the Red River Floodway would need to start operating unless there is a heavy rainstorm.

Water has been naturally flowing into the floodway at a rate of 4,750 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Tuesday morning, giving some flood protection inside the city.

Ice jams a concern

Concerns remain over ice jams raising higher river levels in areas north of Winnipeg.

In Selkirk, Provincial Road 204 from Provincial Road 212 to Selkirk remains closed due to water across the road.

Darcy Hardman, the emergency measures coordinator for the Rural Municipality of St. Andrews, said ice jams are a concern around Selkirk.

One, which was forcing up levels on Monday, let go on Tuesday morning. However, it is slow-moving and expected to jam up further north, he said.

'The horrific trauma of being fast asleep and then having water go right under your floorboards and not knowing if you're going to have a house again — that's why I didn't get any sleep last night' - Roxanne Anderson

Officials are keeping their eyes on homes on Breezy Point Road, which runs north from Selkirk towards Lake Winnipeg.

"That will be the one area that will need a lot of assisting of the residents because that ice jam is going to sit for a while and that water's going to come up quite high," Hardman said.

One home has already been protected with aqua dams and Hardman intends to reassess which additional properties might need sandbags when the ice jams up again.

"It takes a lot of back pressure from the water building up on that ice jam to move it so it's very difficult to say how far the water will go into resident's properties before it moves again," he said.

"This one could be a very bad one just because of how big the ice jam is and [the] inability for the water to move the ice jams. The longer it sits, the higher the water gets and that's going to definitely cause us grief."

Roxanne Anderson, who lives on Breezy Point Road, isn’t getting much sleep these days. She said the Red River is usually about 215 metres from her house.

It was 30 metres away when she looked out Tuesday morning.

Memories of being flooded out in 2009 when are still frighteningly vivid for her. That year, ice jams forced the river level over the banks, creating a flash flood that shoved large chunks of ice into riverfront properties.

"I remember it, I relive it, too frequently. I thought I was safe here, I grew up in this area. I just don't understand what's happening," she said.

"The horrific trauma of being fast asleep and then having water go right under your floorboards and not knowing if you're going to have a house again — that's why I didn't get any sleep last night."

Roads closed in RM of Westbourne

Elsewhere in the province, flooding has closed about 40 roads in the Rural Municipality of Westbourne, near Gladstone.

Westbourne Reeve David Single said overland flooding and a swelling Whitemud River have already caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to roads in the area.

"We've got roads closed all over the place," he said.

"We're trying the best we can to protect yard sites and I think we've done pretty good so far, but we've had backhoes in, cleaning ditches a lot."

Single said the ditches are full of snow, preventing water from moving.

The heavy rainfall amounts in the forecast for later this week could compound flooding problems, he added.

A high water advisory remains in effect for the Whitemud from Gladstone to Lake Manitoba due to "increasing tributary flows and ice runs," according to the provincial government.

Rain on the way

The weather could add to that grief in the next few days.

Temperatures are forecast to soar into double digits Tuesday, which will result in more water from the melting of any snow still around.

And then the rains come.

“Tomorrow we're tracking a system that's going to dump 20-30 millimetres of rain into western Manitoba," said CBC weather specialist Marilyn Maki.

"We're expecting at least five millimetres here in the city.”

And that wet weather will stay with us through to Thursday.

'James' explained

What is meant by "James" when talking about flood levels?

In Winnipeg, the height of the Red River is recorded at the James Avenue pumping station, measured in feet above the winter ice level, which is 0 on that scale.

Since the Red River Floodway was built, most floods in the city have had river levels just below 20 feet James.

Normal summer water level is 6.5 feet James and the Forks riverwalk path is at a height of 8.5 feet James.

Previous flood peak levels:

  • 1997 — 24.5 feet James
  • 2005 — 20.1 feet James
  • 2006 — 20.4 feet James
  • 2009 — 22.6 feet James
  • 2011 — 20.7 feet James