Soggy soil could mean spring floods in west, north

Some communities in Manitoba could be in store for a wet spring.

2016 fall flood outlook resembles forecast that preceded 2011 flood, infrastructure minister says

Some communities in Manitoba could be in store for a wet spring. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Parts of western and northwestern Manitoba could face moderate to major flooding after a rainy autumn saturated the ground, provincial officials say.

"We're not indicating by any means that we will have a flood next year because nobody knows that for sure, but we just want people to be prepared," Infrastructure Minister Blaine Pederson said Tuesday as the province released its fall conditions report.

A large amount of rain in western Manitoba in October and above normal precipitation across the south during a mild November left soil more saturated than usual heading into winter.

Soil moisture levels in the Red River Valley were average to above average, Pederson added.

Several things contribute to spring flooding, including winter snow and rain levels, moisture levels before freeze-up, rain in the spring, frost depth and river and lake levels prior to spring run-off.

Current models show similarities to the fall of 2010, said Doug McMahon, assistant deputy-minister of water management with Manitoba Infrastructure.

Doug McMahon, Manitoba Infrastructure assistant deputy minister of water management (left) and Infrastructure Minister Blaine Pederson presented the province's 2016 fall flood report Tuesday in Winnipeg. (CBC)

Above normal levels of precipitation caused the Assiniboine River to flood in parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the spring of 2011.

"It is pretty early in the forecasting cycle and I caution people to not take too much emphasis on that," McMahon said. "There's still lots of conditions we still don't know."

McMahon said the biggest unknowns at this point in the year are spring precipitation and the rate of spring run-off.

Pederson said the province has been in touch with municipalities in higher risk areas in the lead up to the report and wants to ensure residents are prepared.

Conditions could change significantly by spring, the report noted. Manitoba's first spring flood outlook will be released in February.

"We don't want to overestimate or underestimate the flood potential four months in advance of the spring run-off," Pederson said.

With files from Sean Kavanagh