Weekend storms show cracks in Manitoba infrastructure

An expert in global warming says Manitoba can expect to see more severe weather such as the storm we had this weekend, but our aging infrastructure can't handle it.

Province needs to prepare for more intense weather, expert says

Manitoba can expect more storms similar to what we had this weekend, but it's ill-prepared for that, according to one expert 2:17

Manitoba can expect more storms similar to what we had this weekend, but it's ill-prepared for that, according to one expert.

Southern Manitoba saw more than 100 millimetres of rain in some areas, flooding underpasses and swamping sewer systems.

EPCOR Chair for Water and Climate Security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, says Manitoba infrastructure isn't prepared for increasing severe weather events. (Bob Sandford)
Bob Sandford, EPCOR Chair for Water and Climate Security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, said this province can expect more such weather events.

"What we're seeing now are very intense cloudbursts of the type that you just experienced and often those are hard to prepare for and really hard to predict except on a very, very late notice," Sandford said.

"We have been observing the hydroclimatic conditions in Manitoba very carefully and we were concerned in 2011 when the major flooding occurred that the province had passed over an invisible threshold into a new hydroclimatic regime where flooding events would be more intense, where rainfalls would be perhaps fewer, but far more intense," Sandford said.

Studies have shown, according to Sandford, temperatures for the Canadian prairies are expected to increase between six and eight degrees Celsius because of global warming.

For every one degree Celsius increase in temperature, the atmosphere is capable of carrying seven per cent more moisture, Sandford said.

Sandford spoke in Winnipeg this past spring about the issues of climate change and infrastructure.

Streets and underpasses flooded in Winnipeg Saturday after an intense storm moved its way across southern Manitoba. (Raymond Rayburn)
"Most provinces in Canada are ill-prepared," Sandford said.  "The infrastructure that we rely on to manage extreme weather events is designed for an earlier, less variable climatic condition. Also, you have the problem in Manitoba that you have a lot of rural infrastructure that may not be well maintained. You have a lot of infrastructure that's near the end of its design life and what happens is it is very, very expensive to maintain and replace."

Sandford admits fixing those issues will cost billions of dollars, but he said government and individuals have to do what they can to anticipate such storms and prepare.

He said homeowners need to protect themselves by improving drainage and installing sewer back-up valves.


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