Manitoba has expanded an overland flood warning and is warning cottagers and those living near lakes in the south that high winds and strong rains expected in the coming days could push lake levels up by more than five feet.
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk said Monday up to 75 mm of rain could fall over southern Manitoba in the next two days, with the eastern half of southern Manitoba expected to see the worst of it.
An overland flooding warning issued Sunday has been expanded to include areas east of Hwy 5 from the U.S. border to Carberry, and south of Lake Manitoba including Portage la Prairie, Selkirk and Winnipeg, and extending to the southeast corner of the province.
Flood warnings have also been issued for the Pembina River system including Pelican and Rock Lakes and Boyne and Red river tributaries.
“Water levels on lakes, streams and drains are high and soils are saturated. Intense and heavy rains in these areas could result in overland flooding,” a release from the province said.
“Depending on the amount and intensity of rain, water levels could rise rapidly and threaten low-lying or nearby properties as well as roads, crossings and other infrastructure.”
Officials say the updated forecast shows the system, expected to start Monday night and last until Tuesday morning, could affect expanded areas along the western side of the Red River Valley, with heavier rains possible around Treherne, Morden, Winkler, Altona, Morris, Emerson and Gretna.
Rising lake levels
Piwniuk said winds gusting as high as 100 km/h are possible through the storm, which could create a high to severe wind effect on Manitoba lakes with the highest amounts of wind setup expected on the larger lakes.
He warned the winds could rise water levels on lakes Manitoba, Winnipeg, Winnipegosis and Dauphin by over 5 feet.
The province is working with about 50 communities, First Nations, parks and local authorities to ensure people are prepared and have sandbags.
Piwniuk said he understands the concern felt by cottagers and communities at risk from the latest weather threat. He said there’s a chance it could damage cottage country as heavily as happened more than a decade ago.
At that time, high water levels on the southern lakes were worsened by a powerful storm. It damaged hundreds of properties, washing away docks, flooding buildings and roads, and blowing cabins off their foundations.
The flooding also led to the relocation and rebuild of Lake St. Martin First Nation.
Piwniuk said there were no evacuation orders on Monday, but residents were being warned to take precautions and stay safe.
“We always want to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best,” he said.
A provincial release said Lake Winnipeg is currently at 715.5 feet, but levels could exceed 720.5 feet at the southern basins with the wind. Officials say wind setup and wave uprush could push levels up by an additional two to three feet.
“Properties along Lake Winnipeg’s south basin at elevations lower than 723 ft. could be impacted,” the province said.
Southern basins of Lake Manitoba could see water levels exceed 817.2 feet, officials said.
Dauphin Lake, currently at 859.6 feet, could rise to 864.6 feet with the winds at the southern basin, including areas along Ochre Beach.
A map outlining the lake wind effect forecast for affected Manitoba lakes is available on the province’s website.
The forecast winds are also expected to impact the already flooded out Whiteshell lakes region, with water levels expected to rise between one and two feet along area lakes as a result of the wind and waves.
Drivers are being warned not to travel into the Whiteshell lakes area and the Winnipeg River basin upstream in Ontario.
“Very high flows and water levels are being experienced on the lakes and rivers in this area and the expected precipitation will cause them to rise further,” the province said.
“The rising water levels and rapidly evolving conditions continue to pose a significant risk to public safety.”
The province has been walloped by wet weather for weeks. It’s brought significant flooding, damage and evacuations in some areas.
There are currently 32 local states of emergency, the province said.
The province also says there additional closures at parks and campgrounds.
A closure order has been issued for Rainbow Beach while Birch Point near Lake of the Woods is also closed.
Travel is not advised to Elk Island and Patricia Beach while partial closures are in place at Camp Morton, Lundar Beach, and Watchorn.
Boat launches are closed at Lundar Beach, Patricia Beach, Rainbow Beach, Watchorn and Winnipeg Beach.
–With files from the Canadian Press
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