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Winnipeg’s flood of ‘79

The Story


Spring 1979. A flood significantly worse than 1950 is on its way. Winnipeggers are confident that the floodway will protect them, but the floodway has never faced such a test before. With a crest expected to exceed the 1950 flood level by 2 to 2 ½ feet, this flood seems bound to push the floodway's design limits. In this CBC Radio documentary, Manitoba Premier Sterling Lyon announces the order to evacuate the Red River Valley south of Winnipeg. The towns south of Winnipeg are far outside the floodway's protection. The larger communities are protected by ring dikes, but many rural residents live outside even these. CBC Radio reports from the centre of the flood region, Morris, Man., where Jack Hamblin lives just outside the town's dike. He is determined to stay and protect his home against the approaching flood waters. Other farmers are in worse straits as they try to evacuate their livestock by barge.

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: April 29, 1979
Guest(s): Paul Campbell, Jack Hamblin, Phyllis Hendricks, Sterling Lyon, Jack Murray, Carson Templeton, Ivan Zernerin
Host: Bronwyn Drainie
Reporter: Brian Blom, Rick Bray
Duration: 11:05

Did You know?


• During the 1970s, ring dikes were built around towns in southern Manitoba to permanently protect them against flooding. Eight towns built dikes, and all eight have held up – even against the flood of 1997.
• The 1979 flood was the 6th worst Red River flood, as measured from Winnipeg, between the years 1800 to 1999.
• The floodway did hold. Winnipeg suffered little damage in 1979, but homes just south of the floodway were hit hard.

• In the end, the flood of 1979 was not worse than that of 1950. Flood levels at Winnipeg were almost identical in both years.
• However, flood damages were significantly lower in 1979 than they had been in 1950. In 1979, the Red River Valley was much better prepared for a flood emergency.
• Grand Forks, N.D. was not so lucky. Flood levels there in 1979 were the worst they'd been in 83 years.


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