1997 Red River Flood in Canada

1997 Red River Flood in Canada

Infobox flood
image location=

name=1997 Red River Flood
duration=April and May 1997
total da

total fatalities=0
areas affected=-Winnipeg, MB
The Red River Flood of 1997 in Canada was a major flood that occurred in April and May 1997, along the Red River in Southern Manitoba. It was the most severe flood of the river since 1826. The flood reached throughout the Red River Valley, affecting the cities of Fargo, Grand Forks, and East Grand Forks before reaching Winnipeg. Total damages for the Red River region were US$3.5 billion.

The flood was the result of abundant snowfall and extreme temperatures. Flooding in Manitoba resulted in over $500 million in damages, although a large dike known as "Brunkild Z-dike" helped to prevent Winnipeg from flooding. Those affected by the flood received donations from across the nation and the world, along with aid from the Province of Manitoba and the Government of Canada.

Prior floods

The Red River in Manitoba and the U.S. states of Minnesota and North Dakota has flooded repeatedly through the centuries, endangering lives and property. The river is highly prone to flooding because of its northward flow. As spring approaches, the snow is melted from south to north alongside the riverflow. There is also the possibility that the surplus water can hit unmelted ice on the river and back up. The flatness of the terrain and small slope of the river is a significant factor.

Floods occurred in both 1948 and 1950. The 1950 flood reached a high of 30 ft (9.2 m) at Winnipeg—causing 100,000 people to be evacuated and $606 million CAD (1997) of damage, prompting the government of Manitoba to set up flood safety measures.cite web|title=CBC Archives|work=A city submerged: Winnipeg and the flood of 1950| url=http://archives.radio-canada.ca/IDC-1-70-670-3783/disasters_tragedies/manitoba_floods/clip1| accessdate=September 17|accessyear=2007]

The first known records of floods along the Red River appeared in the 1770s. Severe floods occurred throughout the 1800s and 1900s, with one of the most recent major floods occurring in 1979.cite web|title=A History of Flooding in the Red River Basin|publisher=USGS|url=http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2007/55/pdf/finalWebGIP55.pdf|accessdate=October 18|accessyear=2007|format=PDF] Homes not damaged in that flood were incorrectly assumed to be safe from a future flood.

The flood in Manitoba

The province of Manitoba completed the Red River Floodway in 1968 after six years of excavation, put up permanent dikes in eight towns south of Winnipeg, and built clay dikes and diversion dams in the Winnipeg area. Other flood control structures completed later were the Portage Diversion and the Shellmouth Dam on the Assiniboine. However, even with these flood protection measures, in 1997 the province experienced a flood of 7.5 m (21.6 ft), which caused 28,000 people to be evacuated and $500 million CAD in damage to property and infrastructure.cite web|url=http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/summary_0199-3605336_ITM|work=Goliath.com|title=Psychosocial effects of a natural disaster: a post-flood assessment in the red river valley. (summary)|accessdate=2007-11-03] cite book|first=David|last=Etkin|coauthors=Chowdhury Emdadul Haque, Gregory Robert Brooks|title=An Assessment of Natural Hazards and Disasters in Canada|publisher=Springer|year=2003|location=London|pages=349|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=kaJz_SNNuKMC&pg=PA349&lpg=PA349&dq=red+river+flood+1997+peak+canada+may+4&source=web&ots=3-ckSxyUsJ&sig=1G9ATebpOzTXnpUeFX9Af_pFbyg#PPA349,M1|isbn=1402011792] Called "The Flood of the Century", the 1997 flood had a probability of occurrence of about once in 100 years, and came close to overcoming Winnipeg's existing flood protection system.cite web|last=Fong|first=Petti|title=TheStar.com|work=Bracing for the next "flood of the century"|url=http://www.thestar.com/News/article/210654|accessdate=2007-11-03]

Towns upriver in Manitoba, forewarned by footage of Grand Forks buildings burning and covered in meters of water, built ring dikes to protect their homes and properties, and the province of Manitoba called in the Canadian Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the provincial Department of Natural Resources. Many also chose to evacuate, including residents from Morris who had only two days notice to evacuate to Winnipeg. Thousands of volunteers also helped to build sandbag dikes around homes and property. An emergency dike, later called the Brunkild Z-dike, 42 km (26 miles) long, was constructed in a matter of days at a cost of $10 million (CAD) when it was realized that overland flooding threatened the city of Winnipeg.cite news|title=CBC News|work=1997's "Z-dike" showcased province's flood-fighting machine|date=April 25, 2007|accessdate=2007-11-03]

Almost all of the ring dikes around the towns held, except for St. Agathe. The town's dike system was prepared for the river approaching from the south, but the river had spread and swamped the town from the west. At the flood's peak in Canada on May 4, the Red River occupied an area of 1,840 km² (710 mi²) with more than 2,560 km² (990 mi²) of land underwater, which earned it the nickname "Red Sea".

The province of Manitoba asked the International Joint Commission (IJC) to provide a report on the flood event and to recommend measures to ensure further flood protection for the city of Winnipeg. Largely as a result of this study, the province has been widening the floodway since 2004.

While the flooding was still underway, the federal Liberal government led by Jean Chrétien called a snap election. Several of the party's MPs from the province, including Reg Alcock, requested a delay until the flooding was under control.cite news|last=Lett|first=Dan|title="Winnipeg Free Press"|work=MPs want vote delayed|date=April 15, 1997|accessdate=2007-09-17] When Chrétien let the election go ahead as originally planned, Alcock transformed his campaign office into a volunteer relief centre, spending his time in relief efforts instead of campaigning, and won re-election.cite news|last=Robertson|first=Bud|title="Winnipeg Free Press"|work=Politicians unite against flood|date=April 29, 1997|accessdate=2007-09-17] cite news|last=Harper|first=Tim |title="Toronto Star"|work=McDonough says election call "insensitive"|date=April 29, 1997|accessdate=2007-09-17]

International task force

In June, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and President Bill Clinton appointed the International Red River Basin Task Force containing members of both countries. The task force's purpose was to find ways to improve flood forecasting. [Shelby, p. 139]

ee also

*1950 Red River Flood
*1997 Red River Flood in the United States


Further reading

*cite book | first=Mike, Ed. | last=Jacobs| month=August | year=1997 | title=Come Hell & High Water | edition= | publisher=Grand Forks Herald | location=Grand Forks, North Dakota | id=ISBN 0-9642860-2-5
*cite book | first=Gerald E.| last=Galloway | coauthors=Clamen, Murray | year=2000 | title=Living with the Red: A Report to the Governments of Canada & the U.S. on Reducing Flood Impacts in the Red River Basin | publisher=Diane Publishing | id=ISBN 0-7567-0802-8
*cite book | first=Ashley | last=Shelby | month=April | year=2004 | title=Red River Rising: The Anatomy of a Flood and the Survival of an American City| publisher=Borealis Books | location=St. Paul, Minnesota | id=ISBN 0-8735150-0-5

External links

*cite web | url = http://archives.cbc.ca/300c.asp?id=1-70-670 | title = Red River Rising: Manitoba Floods | work = CBC Digital Archives | accessdate = May 9 | accessyear = 2006
*cite web | url = http://www.ccrs.nrcan.gc.ca/radar/spaceborne/radarsat1/action/canada/images/may01.jpg| title = Canadian Government Satellite Photo

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