Rain skirts Red River Valley, Interlake but hits hard in western Manitoba

Parts of flood-weary Manitoba dodged the worst of the latest Colorado low to hit the province — but the system did still land a hard blow to the west, and it’s not done with us yet, says Environment Canada.

“There was a lot of uncertainty as to how this system was going to impact us,” said Natalie Hasell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with the weather agency.

Thursday night was expected to be the start of yet another stretch of rainfall — a forecast that renewed worries for Red River Valley and Interlake communities dealing with high water, evacuations and damaged infrastructure.

Manitoba’s hydrological forecast had estimated 20-50 millimetres of rain across most of the south and central areas of the province from Thursday until Saturday, including heavy rains in some areas due to thunderstorms.

In the end, Mother Nature shifted the trajectory of the system. Winnipeg had about 10 millimetres while the Interlake, where Peguis First Nation has been fighting back the swollen Fisher River, had just 5-10 millimetres.

And none of those areas saw any thunderstorm action.

Instead, areas closer to the Saskatchewan border felt the brunt, where Dauphin received about 33 millimetres of rain.

“The track pushed it further west, missing most of the Red River Valley and Interlake, where we already have difficult conditions,” said Hasell.

“The system is really affecting west-central Manitoba but the middle has yet to receive a whole lot.”

A May 11 aerial image shows the flooding from the Red River outside Morris, Man., which is protected by a ring dike. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

A rainfall warning is in place Friday for Duck Mountain and Porcupine Provincial Forest, and areas between. Rain, at times heavy, is expected through Friday with amounts of 30-60 millimetres possible, Environment Canada says.

The heaviest rain will taper off late Friday, but showery weather will last into Saturday.

As well, a special weather statement is in effect for areas a little further north, around The Pas and Moose Lake, where a soaking of 25-45 millimetres by Saturday morning is possible.

In addition to the heavy rain, there is a risk of winds gusting as high as 80 km/h.

“So it’s not over from this particular system, unfortunately,” said Hasell, noting the Red River Valley and Interlake could see more rain on Friday and Saturday as the system begins to shift east again.

“The worst stuff is to the west but there are a few blips on the radar that suggest there is still some convection” that could be felt elsewhere, she said.

“Even if a warning isn’t in effect, parts of the province that will see effects from the system, it just doesn’t meet warning criteria.”

Though Winnipeg won’t likely get too much rain, Peguis could receive 10-20 millimetres. But hopefully, the impact will be less, Hasell said.

A satellite image, taken Tuesday, shows the flooded Red River Valley on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, from Winnipeg south to Grand Forks, N.D. (Lauren Dauphin/NASA Earth Observatory/The Canadian Press)

The biggest issue could be the winds, which will be strong at times through the valley and Interlake on Friday. Powerful gusts could drive up water levels by a foot in some flood-stricken areas.

“Even if we don’t get a lot of rain … we have lakes where we didn’t have lakes a couple of weeks ago,” Hasell said.

As the system eventually shifts east, it will also move a bit north and pull down colder air. Parts of northern Manitoba could see freezing rain and snow, she said.

That cooler air will also be felt in the south, where temperatures will be well below normal.

“There are many, many impacts from these systems,” said Hasell.

In Winnipeg, highs will range from 10 C to 15 C over the next four or five days while the overnight lows could drop down to the freezing mark.

The normal high for this time of year is 19 C. That might arrive by Wednesday, but more unsettled weather is also expected to arrive by then.

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