Manitoba downgrades flood forecast for Red River

Manitoba has downgraded its flood expectations for the Red River this spring, giving credit to cool weather this month for slowing down the snow melt.

Significant flooding still expected on Assiniboine and Souris rivers

Manitoba government downgrades flood expectations for the Red River, giving credit to cool weather for slowing down the snow melt. 1:54

Manitoba has downgraded its flood expectations for the Red River this spring, giving credit to cool weather this month for slowing down the snow melt.

Provincial officials released an updated flood forecast on Friday morning, crediting favourable weather conditions for making a considerable difference.

Unseasonably cool temperatures so far this spring helped slow the melt, allowing the soil to absorb water.

A lack of precipitation in recent weeks has also helped, said Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton.

"Quite frankly, I don't think you could have gotten better weather over the past couple of weeks for flood purposes; for other reasons, maybe not what most Manitobans were looking for," he told reporters in Winnipeg.

Provincial forecasters are now predicting crest levels on Red River north of Winnipeg to be below 2011 levels.

Instead, the crest levels are expected to be more like what Manitoba saw in 2006, when water forced the closure of Highway 75 between Winnipeg and Emerson for just 18 days.

The highway was closed for 36 days in 2009 and 44 days during the 2011 flood.

With the expected level closer to 2006 levels, it is unlikely that Red River Valley communities with ring dikes will have to be evacuated, according to the province.

The crest is still expected to reach Winnipeg in the third week of May.

In the last update on April 18, forecasters called for an increased risk of major flooding in the Red River Valley.

Manitoba’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre said the risk was inching up because the province was approaching the "unfavourable weather scenario."

But on Wednesday, the U.S. National Weather Forecast backed off their initial flood predictions for nearby Fargo, N.D. They lowered the predicted crest of the Red River in their area by about 25 centimetres.

'Don't sound the all-clear sirens'

However, forecasters in Manitoba warned that significant flooding is still expected on the Assiniboine and Souris rivers.

Even with a more favourable forecast for the Red, Ashton said the province won't stop preparing for high water.

"What you don't do is when you get some good news — and this is good news for the Red River Valley — you don't sound the all-clear sirens," Ashton said.

"I mean, the bottom line is we're going to have flooding, and we're not going to take anything for granted."

The minister added that with flood preparations already underway, if a significant amount of precipitation does fall later this spring, the province will be ready for "a higher range of flooding."

Officials warn that this weekend's warm weather will result in a quick snow melt that could cause ice jams and water on roads.