We all believed that Manitoba’s Flood Of the Century was in May of 1997, when flooding along the Red River Valley spread several kilometers inland and caused $3.5 billion in damages.
It appears, then, that 2011 brings the floods of the “new” century to Manitoba.
Heavy rains and spring runoff have caused water levels to reach new highs all across the southern Manitoba region. Manitoba has been preparing for expected floods for months. Finally, after monitoring expected water levels particularly closely over the last several days, officials finally decided to punch a hole in the dike just east of Portage La Prairie at Hoop and Holler bend – selected because of the slow speed of the water at this oxbow bend — in order to intentionally flood a specific area and avert an almost certain unintentional breach downstream that could be catastrophic in more heavily populated areas.
Approximately 500 cubic feet of water per second have been pouring through the breach approximately 260 miles north of Fargo, N.D., since yesterday morning — the equivalent of an Olympic-sized swimming pool of water every three minutes. The water is slowly spreading across the flat Manitoba farmland, proceeding at a stately but inexorable pace towards over 100 homes in an approximately 180 square kilometer area at risk. The government is promising that those who have been washed out by the intentional flooding will be well compensated.
The Assiniboine river is expected to crest later this week. 1,300 people have already been evacuated from low-lying areas surrounding Brandon, Manitoba as a precautionary measure. Armed forces troops are still shoring up dikes at more than 17 weakened locations along the river, hoping the measures will save the rest of the region from flooding.
So far it appears only one death has resulted from the flooding.
Photo credit: loozrboy on Flickr