Manitoba seeks flood forecaster after top guy quits
Replacement for Phillip Mutulu will be hard to find, says former flood forecaster
Manitoba's top flood forecaster has quit and, according to his predecessor, it could be difficult to replace him.
Alf Warkentin was the province’s senior flood forecaster for 40 years until Phillip Mutulu took over two years ago. Now, Mutulu has quit and plans to move to Alberta.
Warkentin said the province could be in trouble when it comes to finding a replacement.
"There’s not very many people that fit into that mold, and so I think a lot of people are scared off by the job because they see it as too much for them and a pressure cooker," he told CBC News.
The provincial government commended Mutulu on Monday for his professionalism and hard work.
A spokesperson for Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said Mutulu was critical in protecting families and businesses during the 2011 flood.
The province says it plans to have a new flood forecaster in place before next year's flood season, even though the position has not been posted yet.
Mutulu declined to comment.
Warkentin was involved in the hiring of Mutulu and applications from throughout the country were accepted. He said the province will now face a challenge in finding an experienced flood forecaster to replace him.
Flood forecasters combine science with experience, knowledge of the area and coordination with politicians to do their jobs.
Warkentin said that combination makes for a stressful experience and believes wages aren’t high enough for the role.
"Wages are part of the issue," he said. "The job stress and … the tremendous responsibility are very big factors, probably even more so than pay."
Warkentin added that public opinion and politics put a lot of pressure on forecasters.
"There’s a lot of political hype made out of flooding here in Manitoba. I sometimes wonder if the issue is being used to promote politicians," he said.
Reeve Ralph Groening of the Rural Municipality of Morris, located in south-central Manitoba, says he hopes the province hires an experienced flood forecaster.
Groening said his community spent $100,000 earlier this year to prepare for spring flooding that was forecasted but never materialized.
"It's unfortunate because there is some level of confidence that has been lost, not only by us but from our residents," he said.
"That may be a bigger challenge because they simply often dismiss the predictions that are made."
Groening said the municipality cannot recoup the money from disaster financial assistance because Morris was not flooded.
He added, however, that the extra protection will help in the event of future floods.