The floods in Manitoba

By the end of April, the Red River now formed a huge lake moving ever so slowly on the lightly slopped plain and destroying everything on its passage.

The overflow causing the 1997 Red River flood was a real test for the entire valley's flood protection system. This flood was one of Canada's biggest catastrophes.


On March 30th, 1997, the Red River started to come out of its bed. On April 22nd, five days before the crest of water reached the city of Emerson, the first Canadian locality on its course, the Manitoba government declared a state of emergency. In the following days, over 20 000 people from 19 urban and rural communities and 7 000 South Winnipeg residents received an order to evacuate their homes. At the height of the flood, in downtown Winnipeg the Red River went up to 7,49 metres, which is only 0,6 metres under the level of the dykes.

The circular dykes built around the Southern Winnipeg communities had to be raised to insure their security. Although many of the inhabitants were evacuated due to the flooding of the road network, most of these municipalities were spared. Some of these cities almost looked like, at some moments, islands in the middle of an ocean.
On April 30th 1997, the municipality of Sainte-Agathe was flooded by 2 metres of water in 45 minutes because of a breach in its surrounding dyke.



The 1997 flood is the strongest ever recorded in the century. The Red River went 12 metres over its average winter level. The diversion canal was in operation from April 21st to June 3rd 1997. At the height of the flood, on May 4th , the rate of flow recorded at the entry of the canal was of 1 950 m3/s, largely exceeding the previous record of 1 560 m3/s observed on May 9th 1979. Conceived to tame a flow of 1 800 m3/s and having a maximum capacity of 3 000 m3/s, the diversion canal proved its effectiveness. Never before had it sustained such an ordeal. If the river doesn't come out of its bed, even despite a large quantity of water evacuated by the original Red River diversion canal in Lockport, North of Winnipeg, the reason for this is that at that point, the river dug a valley deep enough to contain the waters.