Saturday, April 11, 2009

Red River's Relevence

Photo credit: Joe Bryska, Winnipeg Free Press

Living in Manitoba, we're no strangers to flooding. The Red River basin collects water from a vast region of the heart of the continent and whisks it north into Lake Winnipeg just as quickly as it possibly can. However, every so often we're left in a bit of predicament when we receive more precipitation than usual and the ice that covers the mighty Red River each winter doesn't break up as quickly as it should. This spring, we're facing one of these potential disaster situations. The last time we were hit with a flood this bad was 1997, when hundreds of millions worth of damage was inflicted upon our province from the overland flooding that was caused by the mighty Red River overspilling it's banks.

Most of the people who live in Winnipeg aren't affected too badly by the flooding. But there are some low-lying regions within the city where high water levels and erosion combine to threaten the decimation of entire neighbourhoods. Take, for instance, Kingston Row & Kingston Crescent - it's just a matter of time until this meandering segment of the river becomes another oxbow lake along the shores of the Red River. No matter how hard we try to slow Mother Nature, she will eventually run her course...

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

One of the reasons that Winnipegers don't have to worry too much about the flooding Red River is the floodway that was created just over 50 years ago to divert floodwaters around the city. Once they open the floodgates, the excess water flows east of the city and spills back into the Red River just before Lake Winnipeg. Provided the powers that be are able to open the floodgates in time, disaster can be averted.

While the flood of 1997 was devestating, we did experience some flooding a few years ago, in 2006. Unfortunately, the provincial flood forecasters underestimated the magnitude of the flooding that would occur and decided that it wouldn't be necessary to use the floodway. The headlines in all of our newspapers reassured the general public that we had nothing to fear because the situation was under control. Then, within one day, there was a surge in the water levels and flood officials were forced to eat their words and scramble to throw the floodgates open before our fair city was inundated by floodwaters. I took advantage of this situation to grab my video camera, hop on my bike, and document the power of the Red River Rising...

I threw this video together within a few hours back in 2006, and it's the first video I ever uploaded to YouTube. This winter, I noticed that it surpassed 2000 views. Much to my surprise, I just discovered that this video's been viewed over 1500 more times within the last month. Interesting how the content that we post online can sometimes become so much more relevent long after we upload it to the 'net.

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