Southern Manitoba towns brace for possible flooding
Municipal officials worried in light of latest snowstorm
This week's snowstorm in southern Manitoba has some communities fearing spring floods, given how much snow has fallen this winter.
With the fresh snow that Monday's storm dumped across southern Manitoba, officials in towns like Emerson, Man., located by the Canada-U.S. border, are worried about what will happen when all that snow melts.
"We've been in preparation mode for the last several months," Emerson Mayor Wayne Arseny told CBC News on Tuesday.
"We have a lot of pumps on order. Equipment has been serviced and checked and ready to go."
Emerson resident Glen Rotzien says he hasn't seen so much snow in the community since the big flood of 1997.
"It just doesn't seem to quit, but I believe we should be over it now," he said.
Revised flood outlook coming next week
Manitoba's revised flood forecast will be released on March 25.
Government officials are already warning that cooler than normal temperatures have delayed the spring melt.
That means it's becoming more likely that the snow pack will be melting at around the same time as normal spring rainfall, raising the potential for flooding.
Already, the amount of snow that has fallen in Winnipeg since October 2012 is greater than what the city received prior to the flood of 2011.
As well, flood forecasters in North Dakota are predicting a high flood risk for places like the border town of Pembina, N.D.
Arseny said a rapid snow melt this spring is the last thing his town needs, especially given the flood predictions coming out of North Dakota.
"We're not going to see a decrease in any flood forecasting. The only way it can go is up. That is a concern, I think, for everybody," he said.
Emerson is protected by a ring dike that keeps the Red River out, but Arseny said he's also concerned about flooding within the dike.
"It's not only the flood waters outside the dike, it's the effects of all the melt and thaw inside and getting all this snow and water outside in a very short period of time," he said.
St. Lazare residents also concerned
In southwestern Manitoba, people living in St. Lazare, where the Assiniboine and Qu'Appelle rivers meet, are also fearing flooding this spring.
Both rivers flooded the area in 2011. This year's flood forecast currently calls for minor flooding there, but residents like Angelo Fouillard, an area councillor, say they don't believe it.
Fouillard said the ditches and fields around St. Lazare are already full of snow, while communities in neighbouring Saskatchewan are dealing with record snowfalls.
All the melting snow from Saskatchewan and the St. Lazare area could end up being too much for the Shellmouth dam, which was built about 50 years ago, Fouillard warned.
"I know exactly what's going to happen. We're going to have another flood, I can just see it," he said.
"You have no control over that dam. There's just too much water coming in the watershed, the upper Assiniboine watershed, it just can't handle it anymore. Our dam is not feasible anymore."