With more snow on the way, officials north of Winnipeg 'deeply concerned' about flood potential

With temperatures beginning to rise and more snow in the forecast, officials north of Winnipeg are increasingly concerned about the potential for spring flooding.

Amphibexes have been working to break up ice on the Red River since Feb. 25

Drone footage shows Amphibex machines working to break up ice on the Red River. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

With temperatures beginning to rise and more snow in the forecast, officials north of Winnipeg are increasingly worried about the potential for spring flooding.

"We're deeply concerned with the water that's going to be coming from the south, and we're deeply concerned with the snow cover here and with the thickness of the ice here," said Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson.

The province is warning of flooding levels on par with 2011 along the Red River, with the possibility of a flood reaching 2009 levels.

Both of those floods caused problems in the in the areas along the Red River between Selkirk and Netley Creek, as ice jams forced water over the banks and onto properties.

"Selkirk is not prone so much to overland flooding — Selkirk gets hit by the ice jams," Johannson said.

Most homes in the area are protected, Johannson said, but there are some along the river — including two seniors' residences — that may need to be sandbagged, along with the city's park and waterfront area. 

"I fear for the homes along the Red River, I fear for the homes in St. Andrews and the Netley Creek area. There's some beautiful homes in there," he said.

"They are prone to flooding and those areas could get severely affected."

Amphibexes breaking up ice

Amphibex ice-breaking machines have been on the Red River around the clock since Feb. 25.

The machines will break up a strip of ice from Netley Creek to Selkirk and are about halfway done, said Darrell Kupchik, executive director of operations with North Red Waterway Maintenance — a corporation formed by the rural municipalities of St. Andrews, St. Clements and the City of Selkirk.

Amphibex ice-breaking machines have been on the Red River between Netley Creek and Selkirk since late February. (Tyson Koschick/CBC)

It looks after ice-breaking operations on the river. The three amphibexes — half-backhoe, half-barge machines used to help break the ice up to reduce jamming — are expected to complete the entire stretch by March 17.

With the colder weather this winter, Kupchik said the ice is thicker than normal. If the temperatures warm quickly, that could mean trouble.

"We have a lot of water coming. It's been really cold and we have a lot of of snow, and there's a lot of snow down south, and all that water has to come through here," he said.

"For us to get out there and proactively break this ice makes a huge difference."

Once the ice is broken up and can flow more easily toward Lake Winnipeg, rising water levels should be manageable, he said.

"That just takes the pressure off the river," he said.

"Once that ice is out of here, the residents along the river can breathe a sigh of relief."

Amphibex ice-breakers are working around the clock to break up ice on the Red River to help prevent ice jams in the St. Andrews and St. Clements municipalities. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

With files from Alana Cole


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