WINNIPEG -- Manitoba's Red River Floodway will be activated for the first time ever in the fall.

The province’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre said the gates are being raised as of 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9 to lower water levels in Winnipeg. 

It said river levels are at record highs for this time of year, because of heavy rains across the Red River Basin in September. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, water levels reached 14.10 feet at the James Avenue gauge. The average for this time of year is between six to nine feet. 

The latest the floodway previously opened was in August 2002. 

The centre is watching a system forecast to bring  substantial precipitation , which could either be  rain or snow , to the Winnipeg area starting Thursday. The province’s chief flood forecaster, Fisaha Unduche, said we’re in for 60 to 100 mm of precipitation.

“If it comes as snow, then it gives us time to melt. It’s going to be a very gradual melt,” said Unduche. “If it’s rain, then it’s continuous runoff right away, so ideally we’d like it to be snow.”

The province said it is working closely with rural municipalities along the Red River from the border to Lake Winnipeg, and will provide assistance as needed.

Unduche said we should see peak flows between Oct. 17 to 20, with levels beginning to drop after that pending future forecasts. Severe overland flooding is not expected. 

Provincial staff are in the impacted areas monitoring water levels and provincial infrastructure.