Flood fears subside as river levels drop in Churchill

Water flows on the Churchill River crested on Wednesday. The community is still without rail service, as about 2½ kilometres of rail line are still underwater, Churchill's mayor says.

Churchill River crests, but mayor says important rail line used for shipping goods north still submerged

The impacts of a powerful March blizzard are still being felt in Churchill. A flood damaged cottages and homes around the northern Manitoba town in May. (Ricci O'Connor/Facebook)

Water levels continue to drop around Churchill after days of flooding, but there are still weeks of hazardous conditions and uncertainty ahead in the northern Manitoba community.

Churchill, Man., is located about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. (Google Maps)

Manitoba Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen said water flows on the Churchill River crested on Wednesday at 200,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and have been decreasing ever since. The river was flowing at 192,500 cfs as of Friday morning.

"Flows will remain extremely high over the next month," Owen said. "Even with receding water levels, conditions are dangerous and will remain hazardous. Banks are also unstable. Residents are urged to stay a safe distance away from the river." 

Churchill Mayor Mike Spence said residents are relieved water levels are going down, but the effects of the flood linger on.

"Water is gradually moving off but it's going to take some time," he said.

The community was hit with back-to-back blizzards in March that disrupted rail service and food shipments north, causing the town to declare a state of emergency.

The spring thaw added insult to injury last week when a deluge of water on the Churchill River flooded cottages, damaged a dike and roads in and around Churchill, Spence said.

A rail line to the northern community, owned and operated by Denver-based Omnitrax, remains out of service. Spence said a 2½-kilometre stretch of the line is still under water and Omnitrax has engineers monitoring the situation.

"It's been a challenge," Spence said. "The most significant crisis that we're faced with right now is this rail line that is out of service."

Supplies continue to be flown into Churchill thanks to planes from Thompson-based Calm Air, Spence said, adding the company has reduced flight costs.

Owen said water levels are projected to keep going down on the Churchill River, despite a forecast for rain in the coming days. 


Bryce Hoye


Bryce Hoye is a multi-platform Manitoba journalist covering news, science, justice, health, 2SLGBTQ issues and other community stories. He has a background in wildlife biology and occasionally works for CBC's Quirks & Quarks and Front Burner. He won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award for a 2017 feature on the history of the fur trade. He is also Prairie rep for outCBC.