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Manitoba begins ice-cutting program on Red River

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Crews will be hard at work preventing flooding on the Red River for the next several weeks.

The province’s annual ice cutting program got underway Tuesday. The program sees crews and equipment cut and break 28 kilometres of river ice to reduce the chance of flooding related to ice jams.

Remote control ice-cutting units and three Amphibex icebreakers are used during the program.

The program has been in place since 2006, and is expected to be finished this year by March 15.

River users are advised to stay off the ice where there is evidence of cutting. Ice fishers are also reminded to remove huts or other materials in the areas where the program is happening.

El Nino impacting winter activities: ECCC 

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) said this winter has had warmer than average temperatures due to El Nino flowing through Manitoba.

“Any areas that depended on snow, or ice have not fared very well this year,” said Natalie Hasell, warning preparedness hydrologist with ECCC. “If you're in Winnipeg, you know, for instance, the River Trail was only open for about five days, so that kind of gives you an indication of how things are going this year.”

Rick Gergatz, an avid ice fisher, said it took him a little longer to get on the ice for his favourite activity.

“I’m on the ice normally the first or second week of December,” he said Tuesday. “This year, it was closer to the end of December, Christmas time, so we’re two or three weeks later than normal.”

Gergatz said the warmer winter did not allow ice on the river to freeze over quickly. He said he is hoping to have ice on the river until the end of March.

“What really deteriorates the ice quickly is when we have warm spells, where it’s above zero during the day and all night, and for several days in a row,” he said.

Hasell said Manitobans can expect to see shifting temperatures in the coming weeks, ranging from seasonal cold to above average.

- With files from CTV's Danton Unger

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