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Major risk of flooding on Red River this spring, predicts Manitoba government

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Recent snowstorms south of the border have upped Manitoba's flooding risk on the Red River this spring, but provincial officials don't think it will be enough to force the closure of Highway 75.

On Wednesday, Manitoba’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre released its March spring flood outlook, showing a low to moderate risk of flooding in most basins in the province.

"Right now it is looking really good here in Manitoba when it comes to either normal or below normal precipitation," said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk, pointing to watersheds including the Assiniboine, Souris and Pembina Valleys, along with the Interlake and Whiteshell.

"These are all sort of below normal as compared to last year, but anything can change."

However, the province is warning there is a major risk of flooding on the Red River, from Emerson to the Red River Floodway Inlet, thanks to recent snowstorms in North Dakota.

The centre says if the weather is favourable, this risk may only be moderate.

"We are going to be preparing for the worst, but we're hoping for the best," said Piwniuk.

Check out photos from last year's flood in Manitoba

Flooding in Manitoba is pictured during an aerial tour on May 15, 2022. (Source: Media pool camera)

While there is a concern of flooding along the Red River, a major trucking artery in southern Manitoba may make it through unscathed.

Fisaha Unduche, the executive director of Manitoba's hydrologic forecasting and water management, said flood levels in 2020 were at the crest of Highway 75, but did not require the road be shut down. He said the province is expecting similar flood levels this year.

"We don't expect to shut it down this year," Unduche said.

Areas in Manitoba where the flood risk is low to moderate include the Interlake region, along the Fisher and Icelandic Rivers, and the Assiniboine River. The risk is also low along several other rivers including Souris, Roseau, Rat and Pembina. Water levels in these areas are expected to stay below flood protection levels.

The province notes there is also a low flooding risk for most other basins, including the Saskatchewan River, the Whiteshell Lakes area and northern Manitoba. Most Manitoba lakes, other than Dauphin Lake and Lake St. Martin, are expected to remain within operating ranges after the spring run-off.

Manitoba has completed ice-cutting and breaking along the Red and Icelandic Rivers in order to prevent ice jam-related flooding. The province also expects to operate the Red River Floodway and Portage Diversion this spring.

Piwniuk said a lot can still change, pointing to last spring when the province was hit with several Colorado Lows in April.

"We could have been unscathed during the spring melt, it was just the systems that came in," he said. "The outlook for the next two weeks looks pretty promising, so that's where we have to be hoping for the best here."

The full March 2023 spring flood outlook report is available online.

-with files from CTV's Kayla Rosen

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