Manitoba wrestles with storms, drainage issues

Heavy rain, hail and tornadoes are becoming familiar events across the Prairies, prompting discussion about water management.

Severe storms | 
Man-made drainage and lack of wetlands blamed for increased flooding

Residents of southwestern Manitoba can’t seem to catch a break from wet and stormy weather this summer.

Severe weather once again roared through the region July 21, dumping more rain on already soggy soil. At least one tornado was confirmed between Deloraine and Boissevain, and two others near Waskada and Goodlands were being investigated.

A reported tornado July 18 injured two people on Sioux Valley First Nation and caused extensive property damage.

Several rural municipalities, including Pipestone, declared states of emergency a month ago after 300 millimetres of rain fell in two storms. Then on July 13 a hailstorm and possible tornado swept through, damaging crops and buildings in the RM of Pipestone.

RM reeve Ross Tycoles said July 22 he was grateful the weekend storm spared his municipality. Residents are still dealing with water on the land and blocked culverts.

“In my calculation, locally we had 14.5 inches (370 mm) in five days,” he said. “There’s no systems, no waterways, that are meant for that much overland water. I would think that probably over the last three weeks we’re over 20 inches (500 mm).”

Tycoles said crops are 60 percent of what they should be after all the flooding and hail, and hay is also affected.

Trevor Atchison of Pipestone said he hasn’t made a bale in two weeks.

The Manitoba Beef Producers president relies on native hay from marsh areas. Those areas are flooded and not drying out.

Some of his cropland was hailed out, while tame hay is either cut and lying wet or standing and getting old.

“We’ve got pastures that are flooded so it’s hard on the animals to get around,” he said. “Foot rot, those kinds of issues are more prevalent when there’s wet weather.”

He said the severity of the storms and heaviness of the rain are unusual for the area.

“You might get a storm of three or four inches (75 to 100 mm) once a season, but not like this year when you get them once a week,” Atchison said.

Tycoles said man-made drainage is one reason for more water problems. Water used to run naturally from the northwest but this year has been coming from the west.

“That water is coming from somewhere,” he said. “We know we’ve done it to ourselves. There’s no wetlands. We’ve got to change our management of land maybe a little bit.”

Tycoles also believes the weather patterns are shifting and pushing more violent storms from the Dakotas into southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba.

“I think we’ve got to get ready for this sort of stuff,” he said.

The RM was scheduled to meet with the province July 24 for a preliminary meeting to discuss the water damage and how to better manage it.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Crop Hail Association said in its July 22 report that hail claims in Manitoba are within the five-year average.

The most significant storm to date was the July 13 storm that began in southeastern Saskatchewan and moved into Manitoba, devastating crops along the way.

It has also accounted for most of the hail damage in Saskatchewan. Claims are slightly below the five-year average in that province.

In Alberta, claims are above average for this time of year. Hail has been reported nearly every day this month.

The CCHA said storms July 5, 6 and 17 affected large acres of high-value irrigated crops in the Lethbridge, Taber and Coaldale area. The July 10-11 storms in Leduc, Camrose and Lacombe and west to Provost resulted in some complete crop loss.

More than 1,000 claims have been reported.

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