Spring flooding concerns rise after major snowstorm south of the border
WINNIPEG -- The potential for spring flooding in Manitoba has some community leaders worried following a major snowstorm over the weekend south of the U.S.-Canada border.
Gregory Gust, a warning coordination meteorologist with the U.S. National Weather Service based in Grand Forks, ND, said some areas around Fargo and Grand Forks received more than 30 centimetres of snow.
“We started with a fair amount of light snow and then as the heavier snow came in we did reach blizzard conditions,” said Gust. “It pretty much brought both cities down to a crawl and they had pull the plows and everything.”
Winnipeg and southeastern Manitoba didn’t get hit has hard, with the area receiving five to 10 centimetres of snow.
Gust said the current conditions in the Red River Valley in North Dakota mean communities could be in for another flood fight this coming spring, depending on the melt.
“The initial precursors, if you would, for a significant flood season are in place and those are: the very wet soil conditions, the high-base stream flows and of course now we’re starting to build up that snowpack. We’re sitting currently with 41 inches (104 centimetres) for the season up here in Grand Forks, 34 inches (86 cm) down in Fargo,” said Gust. “Of course some of that melted, some of that was October snow but the snowpack that we’re sitting with now – 17, 18 inches of compacting snow as we speak already has 2.8 inches of water in it so we’re nearly up to our typical winter season of snow water.”
“This is December so we got a lot of winter left to go. We’ll be paying close attention to that and then of course the spring thaw – how is it going to melt and come off. So stay tuned.”
Larry Johannson, the mayor of Selkirk, Man., a community located along the Red River north of Winnipeg, said there’s concern about high water in his community because of the wet fall in Manitoba and the soggy conditions south of the border.
“We’re worried about the high water, the way the water froze,” said Johannson. “There’s a lot of water that’s going to be coming. We’ve got a lot of problematic areas that worry us.”
He pointed to nearby Netley Creek as one area of concern.
Johannson said overland flooding isn’t a concern for his community but noted ice jams could pose a problem for Selkirk.
Manitoba Infrastructure’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre said earlier this month that soil moisture levels before freeze-up were normal to well above normal for most of the province’s river watersheds, with the exception of northern basins.
It said flooding is still strongly dependent on future weather conditions, including the amount of spring and winter precipitation as well as melt conditions.