Warm weather prompts warnings in Winnipeg

Stay away from Winnipeg's rivers and waterways — that's the warning from the police river patrol in light of an extended run of unseasonably warm weather.

Berens River residents face critical shortage of supplies without ice roads

An aerial photo taken on Wednesday shows just how thin, or non-existent, the ice is on the Red River. This picture was taken near St. Andrews, north of Winnipeg. (Madeleine Goodwin-Ominski/CBC)

Stay away from Winnipeg's rivers and waterways — that's the warning from the police river patrol this week.

Southern Manitoba has been under an extended run of unseasonably warm weather, with the daytime highs often cracking the freezing mark.

The temperature in Winnipeg reached a toasty high of 6.7 C by 3 p.m. CT Thursday, surpassing the previous Jan. 5 record of 4.3 set in 1984.

Records were also broken in southwest Manitoba, where Melita and Morris both hit 11 C. Manitobans don't usually see those kinds of numbers until April.

Weird weather

Daytime high temperatures have been about 10 to 15 degrees warmer than normal in recent days, and the mercury hasn't dipped much once the sun goes down. Overnight lows have been about 20 degrees warmer.

Normal temperatures for this time of year:

  • High: –13 C
  • Low: –23 C

Ray Duma, Winnipeg's river patrol officer, said there is more open water in January than he's ever seen in 20 years.

And where there is still ice, it's only eight to 10 inches thick. It should be twice that at this time of year, Duma said.

Crews testing the ice even get nervous walking out on it, even though they're well equipped.

"Well, the ice always cracks because it's readjusting itself. So when that happens we still, you know, we still have a little bit of a shudder there, but we are always out there with safety equipment — we're harnessed up and we've got ropes so we're OK," Duma said.

The general public isn't safe anywhere near the ice right now and should avoid it, he said.

Even where they were once welcome, the public is being asked to stay away.

The Assiniboine Park duck pond, which opened six days ago to skating, is closed again due to the "significant melt" expected today as temperatures soar, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy stated in a news release.

Health emergency

The warm weather has created a health emergency for Berens River First Nation.

With winter roads still impassable, the community on the east side of Lake Winnipeg has not been able to bring in necessary supplies and has run out of gasoline.

Chief George Kemp said health workers can no longer reach patients who need regular home care.

"Take Winnipeg and take all the gas away and see what happens," he said. "Your ambulance can't run or nothing."

As many as 30 residents may be forced to leave the reserve but Health Canada must first approve the evacuation and Kemp expects to hear from them soon.

Temperature records broken

A number of Manitoba communities broke warm weather records on Thursday. Here are some of the record-setting temperatures as of 3 p.m. CT, according to Environment Canada.

Environment Canada noted that the warmest temperature ever recorded in Winnipeg in January was 7.8 C on Jan. 23, 1942.

Max. temperature (C) Previous record (Year set)
Winnipeg 6.7 4.3 (1984)
Portage la Prairie 9.7 5.0 (1984)
Gretna 11.0 5.0 (1958)
Pilot Mound 10.2 4.4 (1958)
Brandon 6.9 4.5 (1984)
Melita 11.4 4.1 (2001)
Dauphin 8.5 5.0 (1984)
Fisher Branch 4.3 3.0 (1984)
Gimli 5.2 4.3 (1984)
Pinawa 5.3 3.0 (1984)
Sprague 8.1 4.0 (1984)