Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Forecasters Say Mother Nature Set to Give Flood-Weary Manitoba a Spring Break: Spring Break for Manitoba Flood Fighters?

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Forecasters Say Mother Nature Set to Give Flood-Weary Manitoba a Spring Break: Spring Break for Manitoba Flood Fighters?

Article excerpt

WINNIPEG - Mother Nature appears poised to give water-weary Manitoba a breather this spring after one of the worst and longest floods in the province's history last year.

As Manitoba neared record-high temperatures of 7 C Thursday, forecasters said the unseasonably warm winter, coupled with very little precipitation, means things look good for anxious flood watchers.

"It's a different world than this time last year," said Dave Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada. "You had the perfect storm for giving you the flood of all time."

Last January, Phillips said, Manitoba had three times the amount of snow it has now and the soil was completely saturated. When all that snow melted, it had nowhere to go but into swollen waterways.

But that was followed by a hot summer with very little rain, which gave the soil a chance to dry out and moisture to evaporate, Phillips said. That trend has carried into the winter. So far, he said, Manitoba has only had five days where temperatures dipped below -20 C compared with the more-usual 22 days.

Anything can happen between now and the spring melt, but it's looking like flood fighters will get a break, Phillips said.

"One doesn't want to jinx it by suggesting that this is going to be a piece of cake this year compared to last year. The truth is, you don't know what's around the horizon."

Last spring's flood was one of the worst on record. Well into the summer, the province struggled to contain the swollen Assiniboine River by funnelling water away. That pushed water levels up on Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg, which cut off roads and damaged homes and cottages.

More than 2,000 people forced from their homes still haven't been able to return.

Flooding also left its mark on provincial coffers. Officials are predicting close to a $1-billion deficit this year due in part to $800 million in flood costs.

Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said officials were building up dikes along the Assiniboine last year in anticipation of a hefty spring flood. …

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