Concerns remain as river levels go down north of Winnipeg

After rising water levels on the Red River elevated anxieties north of Winnipeg last week, the water is starting to go down again.

'We will get through this,' says RM of St. Andrews emergency co-ordinator Jim Stinson

Ice jams on the Red River in the RM of St. Andrews on Nov. 21. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

After rising water levels on the Red River elevated anxieties north of Winnipeg last week, the water is starting to go down again.

Jim Stinson, the emergency co-ordinator for the rural municipality of St. Andrews, said warmer weather has caused the ice that was affecting river levels to flatten out a little bit.

Even as the water continues to go down — with drops of up to five feet in the last 10 days — Stinson said they're not in the clear until the river gets down even further.

"It's concerning," he said. "It's still higher up around the south end of our municipality than it is normally, even in the springtime."

Stinson said ice jams on the river last week raised questions about how long the water would stay high.

"The Red River is notorious for ice jams. Once you get an ice jam, it's very unpredictable how high the water is going to go," he said. "So we're going to have that water dropping, [but] what is going to happen to that ice once the water has dropped down below it?"

He said the buildup of frazil ice — a slushy-like mix of crystals that can quickly increase in size as it clings to things like logs, branches and larger blocks of ice — combined with the high water levels also have him concerned.

"Is it going to drop down to the normal winter levels? Is this frazil ice going to be a concern come springtime?" he said. "I probably got a half a dozen phone calls from residents yesterday, very much concerned because they have never seen this."

Drone footage of ice jams in St. Andrews

3 years ago
Duration 0:49
CBC Manitoba's Trevor Lyons shot this video with a drone on Nov. 21, showing the ice jams on the Red River in the RM of St. Andrews.

Stinson said he's also urging residents to be careful walking their dogs near the water, because the riverbanks have gotten so slippery.

"As the river lowers, it gets at an angle on the edge of the river, and a person could slide down," he said. "You should control your pets, because if you have them out on the ice and then you want to go and protect them, you may end up having to be rescued."

Stinson said at last check, the Red River is at 716 feet and three inches (a drop of three feet in the last 10 days) at Breezy Point and at 719 feet and four inches (a drop of five feet in 10 days) at Selkirk.

He said while the water level is still concerning, he's feeling optimistic.

"If we could get through these next five to 10 days with what we have now, we should not be getting more water at us and we should be able to handle what we have," he said. "If we don't get a jam, we will get through this."


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