Spring forecast could ease Manitoba flood concerns

A forecast of cool and dry weather for the next two weeks should reduce the flooding risk in Manitoba’s Red River Valley.

The United States National Weather Service has predicted the last week of March will feature dry weather and high temperatures a few degrees above zero in eastern North Dakota.

“A quiet week weather-wise is in store,” the NWS said March 25. “This along with no precipitation will make for favourable snow-melt conditions, in that it will be gradual and not rapid.”

As well, the NWS forecast for early April suggests weather will be cooler and drier than normal in North Dakota. If that happens, the snow pack will melt slowly over the next two weeks.

The forecast is positive news for farmers and residents of Manitoba’s Red River Valley because additional precipitation would have exacerbated the flooding risk south of Winnipeg.

If the forecast changes and there’s an early spring blizzard, a flood similar to 2009 is still a possibility. That year, the Red River recorded the second-highest flows in 150 years, second only to the flood of 1997.

In 2009, about 1,000 sq. kilometres of agricultural land south of Winnipeg were covered in water for part of May and June.

The risk of severe flooding remains high this spring because of excess snowfall south of the border. The area around Fargo, N.D., received 150 to 200 percent of normal precipitation between Nov. 1 and early March.

Then a mid-March blizzard in North Dakota and eastern Minnesota added another 25 centimetres to already deep snow pack.

Several towns and cities have set records for snowfall, including the community of Ashley, N.D., where about 230 cm of snow has fallen this winter.

However, conditions this year are much different than 1997. Agricultural soils were soaked in the fall of 1996, whereas last fall the soil moisture levels in much of Manitoba were normal or below normal.

Plus, a blizzard dumped more snow across southern Manitoba in early April of 1997, which led to the worst flooding of the Red River in the province’s history.

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