High, fluctuating water levels in Winnipeg creating dangerous ice conditions this winter

The record high water levels in Winnipeg this fall could have a trickle-down effect on the ice conditions and a popular winter activity.

The fluctuating water levels and temperatures have made for risky ice condition on the Red and Assiniboine rivers, creating frazil ice and fault lines.

Experts say a cold snap is needed before the ice can be deemed safe.

“We need weeks and weeks, or at least a week, of a consistent minus 20,” said Dr. Christopher Love, the Water Smart coordinator with the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba.

“[That’s] generally what we look for — for new, clear, hard ice formation.”

READ MORE: Cold temperatures can still mean unsafe ice: Winnipeg firefighters, paramedics

“We just don’t know what this winter is going to bring because we’ve had so many different conditions already,” he added, “and those changing water levels [mean] that even if we do get a nice cold snap at this point that’s going to last for a week, week and a half at minus 20, if the water levels change again after that, it doesn’t matter that we’ve had minus 20.

“The air cavities underneath could cause the ice to collapse and then you’ve got broken ice that then has to refreeze.”

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The conditions will also have an impact on the river skating trail at The Forks.

Officials there say while it’s too early to determine how it will impact the river trail, they’re keeping a watchful eye on the conditions.

READ MORE: High water levels might affect Winnipeg’s iconic river trail at The Forks

“The river level is unprecedented, so that’s something we’re contending with,” The Forks North Portage Partnership marketing and communications manager Larissa Peck said.

“We won’t be able to make an official decision on the river trail until we know better in the coming weeks.”

Peck added that whether or not the river trail is a go, there will still be lots of winter activities in The Forks, including skating under the canopy, the lights in Arctic Glacier Winter Park, crokicurl and other skating options.

Peck says the river trail was a no-go in 2000, which is when The Forks introduced the on-land skating trails.

Making the most out of a long Winnipeg winter

Making the most out of a long Winnipeg winter

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