Sunscreen to shovels: Winnipeg finally gets heat this week but then … snow

If you live in Winnipeg, enjoy the next two days. Things are about to change.

Cold front from the Prairies and Colorado low from the U.S. will collide in Winnipeg

Monday and Tuesday will be ideal, weather-wise, for enjoying the colours of fall, but the nice weather is going to be short-lived, Environment Canada forecasts. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

If you live in Winnipeg, enjoy the next two days. Things are about to change.

A taste of summer at the start of the week will provide a much-needed break from the clouds and rain that have saturated the fall. Temperatures are expected to soar into the high teens, even pushing 20 C by Tuesday, Environment Canada forecasts.

But the week will end with a full-on winter feeling.

Environment Canada meteorologist Mike Russo said a cold front is moving across the western Prairies right now, heading to Manitoba. It will reach the western edge of the province by Tuesday, bring temperatures down and possibly some snow Wednesday.

The cold front will arrive in Winnipeg on Wednesday night — then hit the brakes, stalling in the area, Russo said.

At the same time, a Colorado low coming up from the United States will hit the city.

The combination of those two systems is expected to bring "significant precipitation" Thursday and Friday, and much of it could very well be snow, Russo said.

The temperatures will plummet from 20 C on Tuesday to 10 C on Wednesday and continue to slide from there, struggling to reach a high of 3 C by Thursday.

Normal temperatures for this time of year are a daytime high of 13 C and overnight low of 1 C.

Russo said Winnipeg saw another 12-17 millimetres of rain over the weekend. That's on top of the 150.8 mm that fell in September — more than three times the typical amount for the month.

The F word

That has caused the level of the Red River to rise significantly within the city.

The normal summer level at James Avenue in Winnipeg is 6.5 feet but on Monday morning it was at 13.7 feet. That is 1.3 feet below the informal minor flood level of 15 feet, which would require the city to begin making preparations that include shutting off certain drainage gates.

The level of the Red River in Winnipeg is close to reaching flood stage. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The last time the river came close to this level in fall was November 2010; the following spring the city experienced one of its worst spring floods.

All of the moisture this fall has also left the ground around southern Manitoba extremely wet, much like it was in 2010.

A heavy winter snowpack added to the problem, leading to spring flooding that caused substantial damage around the province

The 2011 flood featured the highest water levels and flows in modern history across parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, according the provincial government.

It's too early right now to say what the conditions will be like in spring 2020, however, Russo said.

The amount of snow, the rate of melt and the amount of precipitation in the spring will all be factors in determining whether southern Manitoba will be sandbagging.


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.